Please help me understand the Catholic concept of man and original sin

I am Catholic and talking to someone who is protestant, I’m not sure the denomination but her views on mankind seem Calvinist I think. She describes man as depraved and everything he does as evil without Christ. Is this Catholic theology? Don’t we have a higher understanding of man? I thought we see people as created good and everything made as created good but then somehow damaged by original sin. Am I wrong? I didn’t think we had a view of all humans as just depraved without Jesus but still with the goodness of our creation and in need of salvation. Please help my theology fail!

Take her to the Bible and show here in Genesis that after he created Man that “He saw that it was Very Good.”

BTW, if you are not well grounded in The Bible and The Church that Jesus Christ founded (i.e. The Catholic Church), because they are very confused and hold a lot of erroneous beliefs, they will be very confusing.
My recommendation would be to learn the Bible and he Catholic Faith thoroughly. The best way to learn the Bible is to get a good Study Bible. My choice is the Ignatius Study Bible. I would definitely get The Catechism of The Catholic Church which will give Scriptural references for all of the Teachings of The Church.

You can get one here:

There is also the Catholic Answers Apologist Line (1 (619) 387-7200 that you can call and ask a question and they will get back to you possibly via email.

I do have a Catechism which I looked at before I posted but I couldn’t see where this was clearly spelled out. Could you please give me the references? I do understand that we believe that man was created good and that is why I need a better understanding of how we see man in the world. Telling me to be informed is the very reason I am posting here! I also read my bible but it is confusing when someone else is claiming that we are all depraved without Jesus, which does not seem to be Catholic teaching as far as I experience it and understand it. I would like an answer as soon as possible with biblical references because she wants a reply.

Many thanks.

You are not wrong. There is certainly a sense in which all good things come through Christ. So if that is her point, it is well taken. But she seems to want to take it a bit further by implying that non-Christians are incapable of doing anything good. That runs counter to reason and experience.

I would probably ask some clarifying questions. Does she mean that everything an atheist does is evil? If an atheist gives a coat and a blanket to a homeless person, it is an evil act? If a Hindu person gives food to someone who is hungry, is that an evil act?

Thank you Joe! Yes, she is basically saying that - there are atheists involved in this conversation and they are appalled; that is why I would likely to clearly state what Catholics believe because they are getting the impression that all Christians think like her but I need ammo before she shoots me down :wink:

Like I pointed out about, when God created man he “Saw that it was Very Good”. That’s what the bible says. The Bible does not say that Man is “Totally Depraved”, that is a false man-made doctrine invented by some men in 1600 years after Jesus founded His Church. I did a search and the term term “Totally Depraved” is unbiblical.

Another good resource is, it’s a website by Dr. David Anders a former Calvinist now Catholic.

One of the best Reference sites is Bible Christian Society (**. **It has written articles and mp3 audios.

I would give the Catholic Answers Apologetics line a call with your questions 1 (619) 387-7200.

Remember, a conversation with an Evangelical or Calvinist Protestant isn’t just a conversation. Their purpose is to pull you out of The Church that Jesus Christ founded - The Catholic Church. They even believe that they can even lie to you if it is to get you out of The Catholic Church and they will be very aggressive and even get angry when you point out that what they believe is un-biblical.

It sounds like you are in a little over your head. I would tell her what I have presented above, that the Bible says that when God created man he “Saw that it was Very Good” and the Bible does not say that Man is “Totally Depraved”, that is a false man-made doctrine invented by some men in 1600 years after Jesus founded His Church and then break of the relationship until you have had time to get well grounded in The Faith.

God bless you.

You have very little faith in me Ignatius, there is absolutely zero chance she will “pull me out of the church”.

I know my faith, she is not attacking me, she is explaining her view as if it is “Christianity 101” to others. I want to cut her off at the pass and tell the her and the others about Catholic teaching as I know she is wrong, just because I don’t spend my time in apologetics forums rather than caring from my family does not mean my faith is weak or uninformed. I won’t be calling the number because I am not in the US.

Absolutely, Family First! I also have very limited time. The audios from Called to Communion and Bible Christian Society can be downloaded and played on an mp3 player or iPod when you are driving to work or working out, or doing yard work.

We do have a much higher understanding. You may want to read Theology of the Body by St. Pope John Paul II at

The following sections are probably very relevant:

*]The Second Account of Creation: The Subjective Definition of Man
*]Man’s Awareness of Being a Person
*]In the Very Definition of Man, the Alternative Between Death and Immortality
*]Man Becomes the Image of God by Communion of Persons


If anyone has the time or patience to explain the paragraphs of the catechism I need to reference I would be most grateful. I know enough to understand her theology of mankind is not Catholic and seems very Calvinist so I am not a complete philistine but I do need enlightenment and would be very grateful to anyone who has the time for it or can link me to a good tract that discusses this issue.

Many thanks all.

Thank you very much Timothy x-posted and missed your great post.

Catholic Answers Answer line - 1 (619) 387-7200

Really, try it, they’ll very likely be able to answer your question.

For me, not going off of any resources, I think that the reason for man being depraved and loving evil before God is caused by one of two things. The first would original sin, where the reason humans are corrupted is because we receive sin from our parents. It is essentially an addition to the human soul, and when it is removed through Baptism, it is removed but the stain is still there as an injury to the soul.

The second notion is that after the fall, all humans subsequently created had a deformed nature and that is why they like sin; there isn’t any actual sin being passed down through humanity.

To me, the second notion is inherently false because God made man perfect, and He didn’t start making people imperfect after the fall. We are all each still crafted individually by God, and are icons of the Father. Therefore, God wouldn’t create a nature in us which is imperfect. It is the external reality of original sin which is passed from our parents to us through being born of parents also affected by sin or the after effects of sin.

Kind of like how in the Divine Comedy, Dante paints creation as God having a perfect idea but matter, being malleable and changeable, adds unintentional twists to creation which results in the variations of humanity. God wouldn’t create something imperfect. The sin of our first parents passed on to their children due to their souls being stained by sin or its aftereffects.

My apology. I just jumped in and saw your request for a CCC reference.

Please check CCC, 405 -406. I would offer Genesis 1: 26-27; Genesis 3: 15; and the popular John 3: 16-17 as supporting evidence. I am coming from the position of God’s almighty power to conquer the results of Adam’s choice of evil over good. In other words, we need to choose the attributes of God’s love over modern human wisdom. CCC, 1730-1732 is another good place for beginning to understand the significance of God’s love for His beloved humans. Romans 5: 12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22 are also important because Jesus did not hang bloody on His cross for totally depraved and totally corrupted Adam. In chapter 15, there is this powerful unforgettable statement “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

When using the Catechism, check the footnotes for Scripture references. You can also find helpful information in the Index of Citations beginning on page 689. I find the Glossary especially helpful when looking for succinct definitions. Checking cross-references in the margins can be a pain, but every so often, a gem appears.

Note: Be sure to read paragraphs 20-21 for the explanation of small print.

OK now she has explained that she is a new Christian and attending an evangelical fellowship. I have attempted to explain the difference between Catholic anthropology and the version she is being exposed to. I want to keep talking with her because I get the impression that she is used to very stark, polemic discussions and seems to appreciate being treated with kindness and respect for her POV.

Where is our understanding of non Christians being able to do good? She is being told if you are not a Christian it is impossible for you to do good.

Thank you granny for all your references which I shall read later when I have the time.

Please don’t keep suggesting I call Catholic Answers as I am not in the USA and at least 5 hours ahead time-zone wise, possibly up to nine!

Thank you again for all your help and kindness :slight_smile:

Paul, speaking of the unbelieving Gentiles in Romans 2:14-16, says that, though they do not know what Christ taught, they can do what is right according to the Natural Law written on the hearts of all men by God. When Jesus Christ judges them they may be either accused or excused according to if they obeyed their conscience and the Gospel.

Rom 2:14-16 -
“14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing them
16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

(cf. Natural Law -

Here is a resource from with mp3 audios addressing many of these standard Protestant objections that you can listen to right on your computer.

I think an analogy would help this issue, consider the following: Imagine a guy wins the lottery ,he has a trillion dollars and everything he could’ve ever dreamed of and want. Life is great for him and it going to be great for all of the generations to come because of his winnings, but let’s say he wants a little bit more money. And in the next lottery he tries to cheat to gain more money. The state,who run the lottery, finds out. So the state takes all of the mans winnings and possessions that came from the winnings, and leaves the man in poverty. Now when all of the mans descendants could’ve lived in prosperity and have nothing to worry about ,suddenly find themselves stuck in the same form of poverty as the man who cheated. Even though his descendants did not cheat, the received the effect of The same thing happened in original sin. So really Original sin is not a punishment but a depravity. Now when Jesus died on the Cross 1) it takes away Adam and Eves original sin that has been passed on to us (depravity, he then gives the Catholic Church to lead people to those rewards) 2) it takes away our own personal sin. Because when we sin we offend God ,who is perfect and holy, and Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because of the perfect act of Love by Jesus who is fully God and fully man, his death can be a sacrifice so that God looks with Favor on what Christ did for all of us and turns away from our sin. The Death of Christ destroys the powers of death. And opens an eternal state of Good. Heaven. “I am the way, the truth,the light”-Jesus Christ, the Catholic Church’s purpose is to guide people to that State of Good.-JP

The Calvinist doctrine is skewed, not only in its claim that man’s free will plays no part in his responding to God, but also in terms of its concept of man in general, especially after the fall, as a more or less worthless creature. God loves man with an incalculable degree of love, which Jesus demonstrated on the cross.

From the Catechism:
1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.

356 Of all visible creatures only man is “able to know and love his creator”.219 He is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake”,220 and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity:

What made you establish man in so great a dignity? Certainly the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself! You are taken with love for her; for by love indeed you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good.

357 Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.

358 God created everything for man,222 but man in turn was created to serve and love God and to offer all creation back to him:

What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand.223**

There are also these audio podcasts from Called to Communion with Dr. David Anders, a former Protestant Pastor who has a very charitable manner:

If you’re looking for a scriptural example, you might try pointing to Paul speaking to the Athenians at the Areopagus in Acts 17 (particularly verse 23). Paul acknowledged that the Athenians were unknowingly worshipping the true God. He affirmed the good in what they were doing (i.e their being religious) and tried to move them closer to the Truth of Jesus. He didn’t call them evil and depraved.

To say that, with Original Sin, man is totally depraved makes no sense to me. If we apply that across the board, that means that every single human being before Jesus was born would have been completely, 100% evil. Noah? Evil. Abraham? Evil. Moses and David? Evil. The prophets? Evil. You would pretty much have to ignore and/or discount the entire Old Testament.

Further, if we were evil through and through before coming to Christ, how would it ever be possible that anyone would ever come to Christ at all? Accepting Christ is a good act that implies that the person did not have Christ before they accepted him. And if they did not have Christ, they would have been incapable of doing anything good (per her line of reasoning). So they would have been incapable of ever accepting Christ. Conversion would not be possible. Freedom would not be possible (as such a person would not be free to choose the good in anything that they do).

It’s one of those ideas that only makes sense on paper if you don’t think about it too hard. :stuck_out_tongue:

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