How is Original Sin Just?


#1

I have been a Catholic for quite a while, and since going to college I have become a bit more interested than I was previously in ensuring that my faith is the correct one. The question of Original Sin came up pretty quickly in my examinations, and I found that I had no explanation for it. First of all, it is clear from Church doctrine that sin is Voluntary.

  The consequences of Original Sin are many, including pain at childbirth, concupiscence, guilt, and the need to wear clothes. But, in addition to this, each and every person born after Original Sin was born with that sin on their soul. In essence, the sin is hereditary. Not only that, but even after the death of Jesus, we STILL have sin on our souls. What?

  I think we can all agree that sin is voluntary, and that God is both all Just and all Merciful. And yet, after the first sin, he makes all of humanity bear the guilt of a sin that they couldn't possibly have committed. It is as if a whole family of people were thrown into jail because of the sin of their father. That might have been just under very ancient law systems, but how could it be that an ALL JUST and ALL MERCIFUL God puts this guilt on all of us. I can see how our human nature could be corrupted, and that corruption passed down, but according to justice, one cannot be guilty for a sin one didn't commit.

      Now, I have used google extensively in my search to find an explanation of this that maintains that sin is voluntary, the Catholic Church is the real church, AND we all have the guilt of Original Sin on our souls. However, one explanation (Catholic Encyclopedia, [catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=10849](http://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=10849)) *"The will of Adam acting as head of the human race for the conservation or loss of original justice is the cause and source of original sin. Actual sin is committed by a free personal act of the individual will."* .. really? Another explanation (from [biserica.org/Publicatii/Catechism/catorsin.html](http://biserica.org/Publicatii/Catechism/catorsin.html)) says *"Why should we have to pay for the sins of our parents? they say. Unfortunately, this is so, because the consequence of original sin is the distortion of the nature of man. Of course, this is unexplainable and belongs to the realm of mystery" *

      In the Catechism, it states that Original Sin is a central part  of Catholic Theology, and really it is... and there is no real explanation for this apparent injustice on God's part. I must confess that if I cannot find a good answer to this question, it will be hard for me to close my eyes to this and pretend that the Church is still real. Please help!

#2

:hmmm:


#3

I will be delighted to help sort things out for you because then there is the opportunity for me to learn more about my Catholic Faith.

In case you do not have the universal Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, here are some links. Personally, I like paragraphs 355-421 and paragraphs 1730-1732

usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/what-we-believe/catechism/catechism-of-the-catholic-church/

scborromeo.org/ccc.htm

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

Since this is the Sacred Scripture Forum, we will use the Bible, specifically the first three chapters of Genesis.

Your comment: "First of all, it is clear from Church doctrine that sin is Voluntary. "
Yes, sin is voluntary because God created humans with a spiritual soul which makes freedom of choice possible. (Genesis 1: 27; Genesis 2: 15-17)

Another comment: “The consequences of Original Sin are many, including pain at childbirth, concupiscence, guilt, and the need to wear clothes.” Yes, the consequences of Original Sin are awful. Who is the individual so powerful that he could do something which had those consequences? (Genesis 2: 7)

Your thoughts, please


#4

Is it also unjust that a mother infected with AIDS passes on that disease during pregnancy to her unborn child?

Original sin shows us that we are all connected. It’s not “every man for himself”. There is a positive aspect to it. We work together to get to Heaven. No one goes to Heaven alone and no one goes to Hell alone.

God bless,


#5

First, we don’t have Original Sin after baptism. Once we reach the age of reason we are in a position to have personal sin of our own, however the Sacrament of Penance absolves us of personal sin thereafter.

Secondly, how does a just, loving, merciful God allow suffering to happen in the world? Some people endure more suffering than others in this world, how is that fair? Some people who are very saintly, devout Christians experience extreme suffering, and some people who are evil serial killers may not have many hardships in life, for us its hard to understand these things. “Who are we to know the mind of God”, it says in the Scriptures.


#6

I would recommend looking into Frank Sheed’s writings, specifically *Theology and Sanity *or Theology for Beginners, for helpful explanations.

You could also read Romans 5:12-21, though the translations of verse 12 are notoriously varied. Perhaps the most accurate reading would be, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men **in whom **all men sinned…” This implies consequences for all humanity due to the sin of Adam. Joseph Fitzmyer S.J. has a pretty lengthy examination of this verse and how to correctly translate it in his Romans commentary - part of the Anchor Bible Commentary collection.

Perhaps it would be helpful to view Original Sin not under the same category as voluntary sin (it isn’t for us), but more of an inherited state of being (what human nature entails).

I would also recommend thinking about what supernatural grace/life entails. By definition, supernatural life is above and beyond our own nature. He does not owe us supernatural life, so the fact that we are not born with it cannot be unjust. In fact, God does not owe us anything and yet his grace is available anyway.


#7

I have heard it said that original sin is more accurately called a lack of original grace. Adam was created in a perfect state of grace, but turned from that grace, separating himself from the source of that grace. Now, he cannot create, he has to beget. And man cannot pass to his begotten what he himself does not have. Thus, we are born with that same lack of grace. It is not punishment, but consequence.

Now, God has begotten God, through a human (Mary) who was protected from that lack of grace for the specific purpose of bringing God into the world. Mary’s “Full of Grace”-ness is necessary for the “New Adam” to be born in that state of perfect grace, since Jesus received His human nature from her.

…as I understand it…:rolleyes:


#8

I agree, it is not perfect, but it is not something that is unreasonable. I know that disease and physical problems exist and are passed down, that is not the problem. The problem is why sin, which is voluntary, is passed down to those who cannot possibly have committed the sin. It is not just the effects of the sin that have been passed down, but according to the Catechism we are guilty of Adam’s sin.

In response to your second paragraph, the actions that we make do affect others, but they still have a choice. They have an option to choose to do something different from what I or anyone does. They are responsible for their own sins. If my father committed a mortal sin, that sin would not be transferred to me, because that is unjust. And yet, Original Sin somehow violates this rule…

I would recommend looking into Frank Sheed’s writings, specifically Theology and Sanity or Theology for Beginners, for helpful explanations.

You could also read Romans 5:12-21, though the translations of verse 12 are notoriously varied. Perhaps the most accurate reading would be, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men in whom all men sinned…” This implies consequences for all humanity due to the sin of Adam. Joseph Fitzmyer S.J. has a pretty lengthy examination of this verse and how to correctly translate it in his Romans commentary - part of the Anchor Bible Commentary collection.

Perhaps it would be helpful to view Original Sin not under the same category as voluntary sin (it isn’t for us), but more of an inherited state of being (what human nature entails).

I would also recommend thinking about what supernatural grace/life entails. By definition, supernatural life is above and beyond our own nature. He does not owe us supernatural life, so the fact that we are not born with it cannot be unjust. In fact, God does not owe us anything and yet his grace is available anyway.

Thank you very much, I will definitely check those books out. I think they are probably lying around somewhere in my house.

In your last paragraph, you mention that God does not owe us anything. Certainly, this is true. And, original sin would make sense if God just decided not to give us Sanctifying grace, but the problem is we are made guilty of a sin. It is not just that we don’t have supernatural life. Take this analogy:(the dogs are humans, the human is god) A human decides that his dog’s puppies should not have any access to the inside of his house. I think that few would call the human in question unjust, as he doesn’t owe anything to the dogs. That is your proposition. However, the situation is more like this: A human decides to bring his dogs to a vet and requests that they be put down because the parents of the dogs bit him one day. This would not be a rational/just/merciful thing for a human to do, much less an all just and merciful Deity.


#9

That is what hoped when I first looked at the Catechism, but here is what the Catechism says on the issue: “How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man’. By this “unity of the human race” all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand” (CCC 293)

 Leaving it at "a mystery that we cannot fully understand" is a bit vague... Is it not faith AND reason that brings us to the heights of heaven?

#10

The facts in CCC 404 remain true. The facts do not change with the wind called mystery. In addition, CCC 405 needs to be studied along with the study of CCC 404.

AND REASON leads to the fact that because two sole first humans founded humankind, it is reasonable that all of us share the humanity of Adam and Eve and thus it is reasonable that Christ died for all. (CCC 360)


#11

Hi, Daniel!
…have you considered that your problem is not with the Church (the Mystical Body of Christ) but with God Himself?

The Church may have given it a defining name (as with the Three Divine Persons: Holy Trinity), yet Yahweh God Himself is the One Who held Adam and his descendants accountable for Eve’s disobedience (get, it? It wasn’t even Adam who took the first bite!):

15 And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

It is God Himself that makes the issue an Universal, in the words of the Church, anathema!

We know that Judaism holds some understanding of Adam’s guilt/sin as they basically transfer their actions to their offspring:

1 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: What is the meaning? 2 That you use among you this parable as a proverb in the land of Israel, saying: The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the teeth of the children are set on edge. 3 As I live, saith the Lord God, this parable shall be no more to you a proverb in Israel. 4 Behold all souls are mine: as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, the same shall die. (Ezekiel 18:1-4)

…so how does the Church come up with Original Sin? …another made up thing? …well, yeah, as I stated before, the Church does come up with definitions and terms… but is that not Divinely Commission?:

19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. (Genesis 2:19-20)

…so the Church employs her Commission to create Doctrine and define terms (all in an effort to fight heresies and promote the Word of God); yet, she does not pull the term out of a hat:

12 Wherefore as by one man [size=]sin entered into this world[/size], and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.

14 But death reigned from** Adam **unto Moses, even over them also who **have not sinned **after the similitude of the transgression of Adam,

15 But not as the offence, so also the gift. For if** by the offence of one, many died**;

16 For judgment indeed was by** one unto condemnation**;

17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned through one;

18 Therefore, as** by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation**;

19 For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners;

21 That as sin hath reigned to death; (Romans 5:12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20)

…yeah, no sleight of hands, not hat tricks! The Church took the Teaching of the Apostles and assigned Adam’s Sin a term that pretty much is self-explanatory: Original Sin.

You’re not the first to wonder about God’s Mercy and Justice (read Ezekiel 18); in Romans 5:12-21) St. Paul presents both the points and counterpoints:

15 But not as the offence, so also the gift. For if by the offence of one, many died; much more [size=]the grace of God, and the gift, by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ[/size], hath abounded unto many. 16 And not as it was by one sin, so also is the gift. For judgment indeed was by one unto condemnation; but grace is of many offences, unto justification. 17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned through one; much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ.

God’s Justice and Mercy abounds far exceeding both the Original Sin (charged to Adam and Eve and all their descendants) and the personal sins of both Adam and Eve and all of their descendants!

Maran atha!

Angel


#12

Yes, but it goes on to say, “But we do know by revelation that Adam received original holiness and justice not for himself alone but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.” CCC404

So, the personal sin brought death and decay to human nature. Since they are now separated from God, their human nature is all they can pass on to us.

It says in the next paragraph, “…original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice…”.

Seems pretty reasonable to me.


#13

The result of the original sin is that people have a certain knowledge of good and evil.

The revelations in Genesis explain certain truths to us. The explanations are limited in their scope, for one, because of the limitations of the author and the readers language and intellect. Secondly, why would God reveal more to us than we would need in order to get by in a fallen state. We are not supposed to have a vast wealth of knowledge of good and evil in the first place.

I think it’s left incomplete because we don’t deserve to know. The Church puts forth the revelation it has, and says the rest is a mystery. I can live with that. We can ponder the mysterious parts; that’s part of our role in God’s providence, to work on that which is left open.


#14

I agree. CCC 404 states “…By yielding to his tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why it is called sin only in an analogical sense…”

Seems pretty “reasonable” to me…


#15

Interestingly, I came upon this when closely reading it: " It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called “sin” only in an analogical sense: it is a sin “contracted” and not “committed” - a state and not an act." -CSC 404 That sounds great, except it still uses the word “sin.”

     The Council of Orange was convened specifically to address this issue, and the heresy brought up by Pelegius. Here is what it says in Canon 2: *" If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12)."* Here it looks like they define sin as the death of the soul. Maybe I am simply confusing definitions here, but it is possible that Original Sin is not a Sin in the proper sense. Certainly, they take some pains here to define the sin that they are talking about. However, in CCC 1849, the Church declares *"Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as "an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law."*

  So, am I just plain wrong here then? Is it only a sin insofar as it is the death of the soul? And what about Romans 5:19 *"For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just. * (Duay-Rheims) *"sicut enim per inoboedientiam unius hominis peccatores constituti sunt multi ita et per unius oboeditionem iusti constituentur multi"* (Vulgate). [The Duay has the best English translation of the verse, but for those who can read Latin, it is always better that way]

#16

I understand where you are coming from. It does seem unfair if you just want to focus on that. Let’s look at it from another angle.

St Augustine said:
“the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth," because “heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away.” He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy. – CCC Paragraph 1994

I can’t remember who, I think it was St Francis of Assis that said:
When we sin, we become lower than the devils in hell. When we do righteous deeds we become higher than the angels in heaven – the theme is neither the angels or devils have the same struggles as we do in inheriting original sin. So when we triumph over these struggles we have excelled far greater. Ditto if we fall.


#17

I think it is so important to read the Bible and theological works with the hermeneutics of the Love of God for us. He knew this was going to happen from the beginning. I think He’s got this.


#18

Ultimately, sin is disobedience. (CCC 397-399)

I do not mean to be rude; however, it appears to me that you are jumping into the middle instead of starting your investigation at the beginning. In other words, one has to start with Adam. No one else is the first human being.

If you would kindly describe Adam, I believe we could clear up what Adam’s sin is actually.


#19

I don’t think everyone agrees that God is all Just and Merciful.

Adam and Eve could not/did not know the snake was lying to them. They did not mean to be disobedient. Eve was told the fruit was good to eat and would make them wise. Is wisdom not an admirable trait to obtain?

Was eating the fruit after being tricked such a terrible thing that all of humanity has to suffer forever for it?
I think not.
If a loving parent told their child, “Don’t eat the cookie on the table…it will make you sick…” and then left the room…and the child ate the cookie…would the parent damn their child forever, and all of their descendants?
I think not.

Looks to me like Adam and Eve were punished for being gullible, trusting, curious, and hungry.

A wise, just, loving God should have grounded them for a week, explained what they did wrong, allowed them to learn from the experience–and then, everyone hugs and makes up.

PS–If God knows everything, then he knew they’d eat the fruit…and it was all planned.

.


#20

I disagree.

God said don’t do it.

The serpent said do it.

Adam and Eve made a conscious choice to ignore God’s command.


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