I know I keep posting a lot about my university goings-on recently, but I need some forum to discuss this, since these things are rather worrying to me.
Our Dogmatics professor continued his lecture on the Major Eras of Theological History today, focussing on Saint Augustine and his influence on the Western Church. Original Sin was a particularly important topic.
Essentially, he was saying that there was no teaching on Original Sin before Saint Augustine, and he introduced it in relation to the teaching on Grace. The professor said that the most quoted verse for the doctrine was Romans 5:12, which reads “Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned.” According to him, this verse has been proved a mistranslation since the 1400s since we have “critical” (whatever that might mean) translations of the Bible, and the verse should actually read something like “because all have sinned like him” rather than “in him”.
I asked the professor if he was really saying that Saint Augustine essentially invented Original Sin, which he answered by saying something like “The Eastern Churches to this day have no theology of Original Sin. Only since Augustine do we have it in the Western Church.” Asking how, then, he explains the Nicene Creed’s line confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum and Infant Baptism, he said: “Well, from the beginning we have practices that didn’t have some theological reflection, like intercessory prayer at Mass. People just did it, without thinking about how God could act in time when He knew everything from Eternity. Same with Infant Baptism: It was a practice that was done not because it forgave Original Sin, but really only because the parents were converts and they wanted to bring their children along. Origen wrote explicitly against Infant Baptism.”
So, essentially the point is: Infants were baptised in the Early Church, but not because they should be cleansed of Original Sin, merely because it was a time when lots of converts brought their families and their “whole house” along with them.
I find these statements rather worrying. It sounds like Augustine invented Original Sin. If he did, that would bring down my entire belief in Catholicism. If Original Sin falls, so does Baptism, the Immaculate Conception and Infallibility both of the Church and the Pope.
Can someone clear this all up? Are there Fathers who talk about Original Sin before Augustine? Does he himself say he didn’t invent it? What about the translation of Romans 5:12?