THESES FOR THE RE-FORMATION #12
Thesis #12 of 95: Original sin is a reality and the "death" described in the previous thesis is its result
Rom5:14 – Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the violation committed by Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.
Rom7:23-24 – I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God, it is through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Rom8:23 – We who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body!
By “original sin” I mean that the effect of Adam’s sin has been passed on to his offspring (i.e. all humanity) through procreation, that effect being “death” as described in the previous thesis/post. This is assuredly not “original sin” as Augustine defined it in which, partly through a mistranslation of biblical Greek, he believed that all humanity was deemed to have sinned in Adam and that his guilt had been imputed to all. Augustine’s misreading of Paul is no longer such a matter of controversy and is perhaps most clearly contradicted in Paul’s statement that “death reigned from Adam to Moses even over those who had not sinned in the manner of Adam.” (Rom5:14). The father of Western theology’s error here, as with so many of his distinctives, disfigures divine providence and depicts human nature as innately abhorrent . It resulted in his assertion that God’s intention for those made in His image was that “many more are to be left under punishment than are delivered from it, in order that it may thus be shown what was due to all” (De Civitates Dei XXI chap. 12). Even little children who died unbaptized must endure “mild sensual pain” for all eternity (New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia -“Unbaptized infants – teaching of Augustine”).
Such misrepresentations of divine providence and the underlying goodness of the human spirit will have delighted Satan’s heart, especially as it has impacted upon the presentation of the gospel to this day. The reality is so very different: God IS love and He created the universe and especially those creatures made in His image so that He might lavish His love upon them; ultimately to unite them to Himself starting with those He chooses to become associated with His Son whilst still in mortal flesh.
Theological resolution occurs when the source of mankind’s problem with sin has been rightly ascertained. It is not the God-given soul/spirit but the procreated intellectual vessel (body and brain) that temporarily houses it, referred to by Paul and Peter as our tent or vessel (2Cor5:1-4; 2Pet1:13-14). The outworking of original sin is in fact what Paul is depicting in Romans7, as this quote from The Little Book of Providence explains:
As a result of original sin, the divinely created human spirit finds itself within a morally sickly environment. Expressed another way the soul/spirit is required to operate through an impure medium – the procreated body of death. Physiologically the physical and spiritual entities (body and soul/spirit) are in union, yet they have opposing moral impulses.
Paul exemplifies this in Romans chapter seven: the material (fleshly) and spiritual components of man have opposing moral inclinations as a result of which the human mind becomes a battleground, receiving conflicting advice or motivations from each: the selfish creaturely inclinations derived from the bodily members processed through the brain on the one hand; the more idealistic sometimes altruistic impulses arising from the conscience that governs the God-planted spirit on the other. It is not that the immaterial part of man (the soul and spirit) is in any Platonic sense generically superior or purer than the material housing or “vessel” (the body) because the former happens to be immaterial. The dualism in the form of moral antagonism arises from the immediate source of the component parts; the spiritual components are pure not because they are immaterial but because they are from God; the body is impure not because it is material but because it originates from the loins of fallen Adam and carries the contagion of sin. Paul explains how precisely that affects human morality and how for Christians the matter is partially remedied by gospel salvation, yet not wholly so for anybody until resurrection. Such anthropological duality was recognized by the very early Christian writers. In the epistle to Diognetus (c. AD130), Mathetes, the anonymous disciple likens the soul’s relationship to the body to that of the Church to the world: the latter (equating to the flesh) wars against the former (the soul) and hates it because it is perceived to restrict its worldly enjoyment, whereas the Church (the soul) loves the body (the world) and seeks to preserve and sanctify it. Likewise, Cyprian (A.D.200-258) recognized the body to be of the earth and the human’s spirit to be from heaven and that through the Fall they have opposing natures. He affirms that Paul’s references to the spirit being opposed to the flesh are not (as many translations infer) referring to the Holy Spirit but the human’s spirit; similarly, the fruits of the spirit.
The consequence of original sin is that the physical component’s latent instincts as they are processed within the brain are intrinsically corrupting, tending to concupiscence (disordered desire), and will inevitably gain the upper hand over the divinely planted spirit unless aided by divine grace. The inner struggle is not between human nature in its entirety and the Holy Spirit as most have come to understand Paul in Romans 7, for it applies equally to those who do not possess the Spirit. Rather it is a conflict between the inclination of the bodily members (Paul and Peter’s temporary vessel or tent) and the influence of the human’s spirit; the one governed by concupiscence, the other by conscience; the one having been created after God’s own nature, the other created originally from God’s good earth but degenerated through the Fall and procreated therefrom. “O wretched man that I am; who can deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God it is through Jesus Christ our Lord”. Truly, this is the essence of Christian salvation, for in the believer that battle is aided and can be turned into victory by becoming one spirit with Christ.Excerpt from The Little Book of Providence – chapter two