Ep29-The Implausibility of Original Sin - The Problems of Theism & The Love of God Ch 4

Topics Discussed:
• The Traditional Paradigms of Original Sin
• Can We Be Guilty For the Acts of Another?

Show Notes:


“Even though the doctrine of original sin was scarcely mentioned at all during the first three centuries of Christian writings, it became a key doctrine at the core of “Christian” thought due largely to the influence of Augustine.”

2 reasons: scriptures and we all seem to have a sinful nature

“The traditional doctrine of original sin adopts the untenable view that moral culpability can be transferred from one person to another. It assumes that moral culpability and/or properties are impersonal in the sense that they can be “paid” for or “remitted,” like cash or credit from one account to another. It assumes a situation that we know intuitively simply is not and cannot be true—that I can either inherit the guilt of another or be guilty for what someone else did long before I was born”

“many attempts have been made to formulate the doctrine in a way that does justice to the two reasons for which it was adopted in the first place: (1) to satisfy the scriptural warrant for the doctrine, and (2) to explain the depths of depravity to which some humans sink and the general evil that we all commit and which, in some sense, even resides within us.”

“The Traditional Paradigms of Original Sin”

“Augustine’s theory . . . was a radical departure from previous Christian doctrine, and many Christians believed that his theory of ‘original sin’—the idea that Adam’s sin is directly transmitted to his progeny—repudiated the twin foundations of Christian faith: the goodness of God’s creation; and the freedom of the human will.”

“The traditional doctrine of original sin explains two facts about human existence: (1) why we sin; and (2) why we cannot extricate ourselves from sin”

“1. Calvinism. We all (including infants) deserve eternal damnation because we are guilty by reason of Adam’s sin. We are guilty of Adam’s sin because we were “in” him as “seed” at the time he sinned and/or because he acted as our “federal head” or representative in his sinful acts.
2. Arminianism. We would be guilty of Adam’s sin except that our guilt has been removed through prevenient grace as a result of Christ’s atonement which makes us free to choose for ourselves; however, our nature is so corrupted that we inevitably sin, thus endorsing Adam’s sin and becoming guilty of it ourselves.
3. Semi-Pelagianism. We are guilty only for our own acts, but our moral nature is infected with a sickness that makes avoiding sin virtually impossible. Inevitably, we become guilty of our own sins.
4. Pelagianism. We are not guilty for Adam’s sin but only for our own acts. In principle, we could live perfect lives. Nothing makes us sin; we make choices of our own free will.
5. Anselmianism. As a result of the sin of Adam, we have all lost the supernatural gift of grace that would have made it possible for us to appropriately order our inclinations that now, lacking that order, give rise to sin. As a result, it is impossible for us to refrain from sin.”

“There are at least two problems. How can a person be culpable for or guilty because of the acts of another? I’ll call this the “problem of vicarious guilt.” The second problem relates to whether I can be morally responsible without a certain capacity for free will. How can I be guilty for choosing to sin if I cannot refrain from sinning by my very nature?”

“The rejection of impersonal guilt is fundamental to the LDS view. The Third Article of Faith asserts: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgression.”

“Can We Be Guilty For the Acts of Another?”

“Perhaps we can say that there is some sense in which every member of an immoral society who, once having become aware of the immoral nature of that society, who does not deliberately disassociate herself from that immorality, shares the blameworthiness for such acts even though she did not individually commit them.”

“It seems that what I am guilty of is not a corporate guilt at all, but rather for my failure to act where I have a duty to repudiate a certain identification with my familial or ancestral past”

“Feinberg also argues that a group of people may share “the same fault, but only one member’s fault lead to harm, and that not because it was more of a fault.”1”

Gun shooting example

“Feinberg also defends something like the federal-head argument for original sin. He argues that we can be vicariously liable for the acts of another if: (1) we authorize him to act as our agent; (2) we give orders in the context of a military command and the other is obligated to carry out our orders so that the acts done become the acts of the commander; or (3) he undertakes to stand as my surety.”

“Millard Erickson suggests two additional models for imputing the guilt of Adam’s sin to us. The first model is based upon the type of agency principles we have just reviewed—that we ratify Adam’s sin by committing our own sins after we know both that an act is sinful and what its consequences will be”

“The Anselmian view (that Aquinas also adopted) appears to have a better chance of success. In that view, Adam was originally created with a supernatural gift of sanctification that empowered him to always do what is good and holy. However, as a result of his sin, he lost this gift of grace that enabled him to do good. Thus, the fall of Adam led to a loss (the gift of his ability to do what is good) rather than an acquisition (a new kind of corrupted nature).”

“If we inevitably sin and if we can escape sin and its consequences only if God grants us a supernatural grace, then how can we be morally responsible when we sin? In addition, whether we are saved is solely up to God because we can merit salvation only by doing what is good, and we can do good only if God grants this supernatural grace to us.”

Arminian view. Sophie's choice and no moral dilemmas argument. Explain no moral dilimmas and its relation to the Arminian view.

“Michael C. Rea proposes two additional bases for suggesting that we can be responsible for the acts of another without violating either MPC or MP.”

Rea states "...“for each of us, there is an x such that x is our counterpart and x committed Adam’s sin. Thus, given our counterpart theoretic account of persistence, it is true of each of us that we committed Adam’s sin. Notably, it is true of each of us that we were in Adam.”

“This notion does not entail a violation of MP or MPC because it maintains that I actually was involved in Adam’s first sin and thus I am not being held responsible for what Adam did but for what I do. I am involved in Adam’s sin because there is an objective counterpart relation such that Adam’s acts overlap and count as my own and vice versa”

Explain the problems with this...

“Rea also suggests another theory of original sin that will have plausibility for those who accept the Molinist view that there are counterfactuals of freedom.”

Explain this view please...

“Transworld depravity consists of the view that there are true propositions about what I or anyone would freely do if we were created in any possible circumstance. These propositions are supposedly true of us before we are born and, indeed, regardless of whether we are actually created.”

Basically that there is a possible world or set of circumstances in which every single person could go wrong.

“Rea acknowledges that this quasi-theory of original sin faces several formidable obstacles. First, it assumes and does not explain the universality of sin. Thus, one of the main historical reasons motivating the doctrine cannot be satisfied.

Second, it is quite doubtful that the claim that we can be morally responsible for such inevitable sins is true at all.”

“The propositions that describe what we would do in circumstance C are not up to us because they prevail regardless of whether we exist, and thus it is impossible to claim that we bring about their truth. How can we be morally culpable for any act that is not up to us whether it is true that we do it?

Third, what we do in circumstance C is not caused by or explained by the fact that we are in C.”

“Finally, there are very good reasons to believe that the supposed counterfactuals of freedom that define what a person P does in any circumstances C are all false.31 Yet without any true counterfactuals, the entire theory of conditional transworld depravity collapses.”

“The final move to support the doctrine of original sin often is to suggest that those of us who reject it do so only because our own evil nature impairs our cognitive grasp of the truth. Yet such a response begs the question: How do we know that those who support the doctrine of original sin do not see things that way because of their own defective cognitive structures? Once we proposed that original sin corrupts our cognitive abilities to assess our own sinfulness, every judgment, argument, and suggestion is tainted by the possibility that it is a rationalization for sinfulness—but that argument is good for any suggestion by proponents of original sin as well as those who reject it.”


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