Professor Bryan Polk
RL ST 124
9 December 2010
Original Sin – Truth or Ideology
The narrative of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, is one that is well known among humanity. Simply put, it is the story of the origin of mankind; their creation, their temptation, and their initial sin, leading both, man and woman, and their progeny thereafter, to be banished from the Garden of Eden by the Creator Himself. Why us, their progeny? Are we to pay for their sin as well? Or are we also sinful in nature and therefore subject to the same punishment? Where did our sinfulness come from? Is it a punishment? The answers to these questions, and more, are the aim of the Doctrine of Original Sin. This concept attempts to lay out the meaning, reasoning, and actuality behind the story of Adam and Eve, including if or why human nature is sinful or evil, and where it originates. It cannot be so simply described, as there are not only many theories, but also many sources from which the Doctrine originated. The following will, not only contain key persons’ aid in the development, but also the final adoption of this doctrine in the Church, as well as explain the fallibilities, and incoherence of the accepted belief itself. Many have searched for an answer to why humanity is in the position it is; why man kills its own kind; why such horrors exist in our world. Those of the Christian faith have turned to the narrative of Adam and Eve, the first pair, for such answer. First we must define what “sin” actually means in reference to the following. Sin is a failure to act in accordance with the will of God (Keefer). The belief that sin, or sinfulness, originated at the beginning of man’s time, in relevance to The Fall of the first pair seems to be a common belief in the Christian theology. To start, we will look at the works of a Greek apologist by the name of Justin Martyr. The Fall of Mankind has been referenced to as the cause of sinfulness in humanity by some, but Martyr disagreed with this statement. Martyr believed that “The Fall itself does not necessarily have to be regarded as the cause of sinfulness; instead it is merely the beginning of sin”. Although his deductions on this matter seem logically sound, it does not help explain why mankind as a whole is sinful. To this he adds, “[n]ot only this,” The Fall is not the cause of sinfulness, “but the fact that Adam did sin, by disobeying God, does not mean his sin is hereditary, nor a cause for guilt for the rest of mankind”. Martyr took an individualist point of view of man’s sinfulness and death, stating that it is because humans follow Adam that they also sin and are destined for death as he was. Therefore, the individual’s sin is of the same type of evil as Adam’s was, but not caused by Adam’s sin. This is the basis of Martyr’s work on Original Sin, but in his time, the doctrine, or idea of the doctrine had not yet come about. His works were solely based on the study of Christianity as a plan for the redemption of sin. Therefore we will continue onto one of the more impacting predecessors of the Doctrine of Original Sin. (Tennant 275-277) The first constructive theologian of the Church, Irenaeus, delves deeper into the subject than the Greek apologists. His driving force was his belief that Man’s original place of creation was not intended as a permanent dwelling. He views man as a trichotomous constitution, or made of three parts. First, man was created from clay, or earth; this was man, first as an imperfect creation, unable to attain perfection at this point. It was not until God brought man to what scripture refers to as The Garden, that perfection became attainable; this being the second part of the trichotomous (the ability, or competence of man). Still, man was not yet perfect, for to Irenaeus, “[p]erfection is the destination, not the original endowment, of mankind”. Perfection can only be achieved when man’s soul is in union with the Spirit, and then, only if it...