Original Sin needs an original understanding
“Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents ’sin? ” Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.”
By K.L. Joseph
Original Sin means innate depravity held to be common to all human beings in consequence of the fall of the first man Adam to the temptation of the devil. It is also described as Ancestral Sin because of the belief that it has been inherited by all human beings from Adam as a result of his disobedience to obey the command of the Lord and to stay away from eating the fruit of the forbidden tree; the tree that gives life and knowledge of what is good and what is bad ( Genesis 2. 15-17).
Strangely the original sin has not been mentioned or debated at length anywhere in the Gospels. However, Paul’s letter to the Romans says “that sin came into the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned” (Romans 5.12). Paul does not say that human being carries original sin when born or it stands transmitted or received through inheritance from Adam. All the deadly sins that cause death of the soul or act as fatal to salvation such as pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth have followed after this first sin.
The influence of the Original Sin on every human being born is an imaginary concept in the light of the doctrines of St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430). Augustine was an Algerian – Roman Philosopher and Theologian. He did not go with the concept of the original sin being innate in every human being. This concept seems to have been shaped from the 2nd Century onwards by certain Church Fathers.
A sin is an act of transgression against divine law or principles of morality. As per Genesis this divine Law was orally communicated by the Lord to Adam: Lord said to Adam, “You may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden, except the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad”. In fact, it was the result of a deception engineered by the serpent. However, it is said in the scriptures that Adam transgressed this Law by going beyond the bounds set by it. Because, it was to Adam the Lord had spoken not to eat the fruit of the tree that gives knowledge of what is good and what is bad (Genesis. 2.17). Adam’s fault lies in his failure to identify the fruit when some of it was given to him by Eve for eating. For this disobedience, the Lord punished both Adam and Eve, including the snake. So, when everything was thus ended with the award of punishment to the perpetrators of the crime, why then the whole mankind for no fault of theirs but by the virtue of their having descended from the first human beings Adam and Eve, have to bear the brunt of Adam’s sin. It is the one who sins who will die .This is what the Lord has said to the Prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel asked Lord, whether a son should suffer for his father’s sins. Then the Lord replied : “ A son is not to suffer because of his father’s sin, nor a father because of the sins of his son. A good man will be rewarded for doing good, and an evil man will suffer for the evil he does”. Here, the people who committed the sin are our first parents and they only have to suffer for the evil they did. Then, how fore-parents’ sin will fall on the descendants?
In John (9.1-12), on seeing the blind man the disciples asked Jesus, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents ’sin? ” Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him.” The above explanation given by Jesus to his disciples indicates that no one has to be blamed for ancestral sin. So, Adam’s punishment and his resultant expulsion from Eden Garden has to be construed as a fall out of his own sin and this punishment was intended to make him realise God’s power at work so that he could atone for his sin. It will also remain as a warning to the people in his descending line.
Can we presume that when a child dies before receiving the sacrament of Baptism, then such child will land in Purgatory for the reason of the original sin that was in fact committed by the first parents. The inability of the parents to get their child baptised before death cannot lead such a child to purgatory or result in the denial of the child’s admission into the Kingdom of Heaven in view of what Jesus had said to his disciples. When the disciples of Jesus asked him as to who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven ( Matt. 18, 1-5) then Jesus called a child and made him stand in front of them, and said, “ I assure you that unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven . The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who humbles himself and becomes like this child. And whoever welcomes in my name one such child as this, welcomes me.”
The Apostles Mark (9: 33-37) and Luke (9: 46-48) have gone one step further by saying in their gospels “ that whoever welcomes in my name one such child also welcomes the one who sent me” Jesus means the one who sent him is his Heavenly Father.
When a child is the embodiment of purity and humbleness as Jesus himself expounded to his disciples in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, then how the ancestral sin, referred to as the original sin committed by the first man Adam can come to rest with the children born to the people in his descending line ? It will also be contrary to 18.20 of the Book of Ezekiel.
As all the sins of the people were carried away by Jesus, the Second Adam, through his sufferings and sacrificial death on the Cross, there is no meaning to the concept of the original sin in the Old Testament. Because the original sin was also included among the sins that were carried away by Jesus. We can place our belief in this truth because the Second Adam Jesus is the life-giving spirit and he came down from Heaven. Whereas the First Adam referred to in the Old Testament was made of earth. The New Covenant is the everlasting Covenant which does not consist of the blood of goats or bulls, but of the body of Jesus that he sacrificed and of his blood that he poured out for the forgiveness of the sins of this world.
So, the doctrine of the original sin understood as ancestral sin believed to be innate in every human being at birth has no rational and convincing ground though it is very much part of Christian faith. Jesus himself does not seem to be endorsing it, perhaps for a solid reason. We may never move a finger when our fellow men and women suffer saying it is because of their ancestral sin or past birth sin. Original Sin if not properly understood has such a grave danger for human growth.Get the world's most loved and largest selling Catholic Missal praying and living the Eucharist in India. Fabulous Offer: 36 Issues for just Rs 2,880/-
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