The article The very useful doctrine of original sin by Ross Allen published in The Briefing [Issue 344 – May 2007] explains how useful and practical the doctrine of original sin is, even though it may seem highly offensive to believe that all humans are basically bad.
When you think about human perception of their nature the general populous believes that humans are basically good, or at least ‘not bad’. Christians believe otherwise; they believe that people are inherently bad, and this is something that is regularly expressed in the Bible. Often referred to as the doctrine of ‘original sin’; one standard expression is found in Article IX of the Anglican Church’s Thirty-nine Articles of Religion:
Original Sin … is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh … is not subject to the Law of God.
So without God and his regenerative gospel, humans do not have any ‘understanding‘ i.e. consciousness of God’s holiness, fear of or reverence for God. Instead, we are self seeking, looking out for ourselves, and this is a basic understanding of sin; It can be seen from the nature of children right through to old men.
Practically Ross suggests the following:
- Original sin helps us to see ourselves more clearly, and warns us against pride and complacency
- Original sin helps up see others more clearly, and relate to them better
- Original sin helps us better understand the world around us
- Original sin helps us realise the need for spiritual transformation
When a person puts their faith in God and thus becomes a Christian they have a new standing before God, a new spiritual identity, new loyalties and new obligations. Their mindset is to please God instead of self seeking. However, whilst in this life, Christians can never be without this infectious sin. It is good to remember this problem, it will help us to confess our complete reliance on God.
This helps us to realise that when others stumble or mistreat us that this is also a problem of infectious sin. We are instructed to respond with love and prayer by Jesus rather than in a way that would be sinful and/or judgemental.
The Australian governmental system is partially based on original sin. Recognising that both those who govern and those who are being governed have sinful tendencies. Recognition of this dismal truth is the starting point for providing a system that has at least some chance of providing fairness and accountability.
When a person becomes a Christian the natural order becomes reversed; rather than being someone naturally inclined towards evil, with a capacity to do good, they have a God-given inclination to do good with a lingering capacity to do evil.
I’d mostly agree with what Ross says in his article, however there are a few points of information to be raised. The 4th practical point seems less so; I feel that rather than being someone that is naturally inclined to do good, a Christian is less inclined to do evil, or has the God-given mindset to resist it more often. In my experience, I still think of evil things, many of them are quite horrific even, but the will and ability to act on them is less influential than when I wasn’t a Christian, or was a less mature Christian. Instead I want to be doing things that please God and are in service of others, rather than self-seeking.
The term ‘good‘ for a Christian can be mis-leading…. It’s hard to find a substitute word, but if I had to, holy would be my pick of the bunch.
What do you think of original sin?? Does it influence your life?? How about your attitude towards others??