By Richard Quist
In Christianity the concept of original sin is based upon the idea that when Adam and Eve were tempted into sinning in the
Garden of Eden the affects of the sin were somehow passed on to all their descendents. The nature of the affects and the
manner by which they were passed on are a matter of disagreement among different Christian denominations.
The Roman Catholic Church believes that when mankind inherited Adam's sin, they inherited a corrupted world which corrupts
souls as they enter into the world, and also a defect in their soul which prevents them from discerning God's truth, and even
more, they inherit the guilt of Adam. The Orthodox Church teaches that mankind does inherit the consequences of Adam's sin by
inheriting an inclination to sin and also a corrupted world which corrupts a soul as it enters into the world, but does not inherit
his guilt. I am inclined to agree with the Orthodox that all men do not inherit Adam's guilt, for this would be unfair, but also
believe that there is a way to understand the Roman interpretation in such a way that some souls may well have contributed to
Adam's sin before they were born, and thus are held guilty to a degree for their own contribution to his sin.
My view is based upon the concept that all souls are created in innocence when God created the Universe. These souls are
always united with each other to some degree and thus are united with the souls of Adam and Eve. When Satan tempts Adam
and Eve to disobey God, he thus in fact tempts all souls, since all are united, and these souls have some limited influence on
Adam's and Eve's decisions. Consequently, even before souls are born they can sin through their reactions to temptation and
their influence on Adam and Eve. However, in this situation, it is not true that all souls will inevitably sin, since souls don't yet
have the defect that they will acquire after the original sin, thus it may be that not all souls are held guilty for that sin.
Once Adam sins, his descendants inherit a defect in their souls which impairs their capacity to discern God's truth. With this
inherited defect human beings don't have the direct access to God and His truth which is provided through grace, so they now
inevitably sin. This defect also does though make all people "feel" Adam's guilt, because their compromised sense of
discernment deceives them into feeling the guilt. However, God does not actually hold every descendent of Adam responsible
for his sin, only those whom contributed to his decision through their detrimental influence. God's purpose in making the defect
inherited by all is to prove to man that they cannot survive and prosper without the grace of God and to emphasize the unified
nature of mankind.
All souls except the souls of Jesus and Mary share the defect caused by original sin, and from the moment of conception within
their mother's womb they are also exposed to the conditions in this world which are brought about by the original sin. This then
would mean that even before they are conceived in the womb their souls now already have a disposition to sin and can sin to a
limited degree in their thoughts and reactions to what they experience in the spiritual realm, since part of what they experience is
the forces of evil attempting to strengthen the disposition of man to sin. After all, Adam and Eve, even while in a state of grace,
were also pressured by Satan to sin. Since they were in a state of grace, they had a chance to resist this pressure, but those not
in a state of grace because of the defect have no chance to resist this pressure, so they will sin.
The defect makes people vulnerable to evil and incapable of overcoming it's delusional and debilitating affects, but does not
take away their conscience, as they maintain their capacity to sense the difference between right and wrong, though to a more
limited extent. In this condition people do wrong without understanding the resulting consequences and are susceptible to
being deceived into believing that right is wrong and wrong is right.
As I've stated before, once Adam sins and all inherit the resulting defect, all human beings then "feel" the guilt of Adam's sin,
whether or not they contributed to the sin, this ultimately contributing to our development as children of God. This can be
accomplished for all, even those who don't sin after baptism, through a false sense of guilt, this brought on when God allows a
person to believe they've sinned when they haven't. In some instances God holds back His guidance in discernment, and does
this to teach necessary lessons.
One possibility that I've not seen considered elsewhere in regards to this issue is this; since Christ cleanses us of original sin
and repairs our inherited defect, and since we have grace offered to us by God through the Church, if a person is born into a
family with baptized parents who properly follow Church teachings and is baptized, isn't this person in a similar situation to that
of Adam and Eve, that is, in a state of grace, and, doesn't this give them the possibility to proceed in their development as
children of God without sin. I believe that it does. Christ's life, death, and resurrection has re-created this possibility. This view
mitigates Adam and Eve's guilt to a degree, since it reveals to us that they have not been the only beings to turn away from God's
grace while in His grace. Anyhow, nobody should dare judge Adam and Eve. We each have different degrees of pressure put
upon us by the Evil One according to his perceptions of the importance of the prize that he seeks, and the fact that Adam and Eve
were destined to be the parents of the whole human race meant that he considered their fall to be of an exceptional importance.
The factor of Satan's intent and goals should be included whenever one considers the trials and tribulation that each of us as
individuals must endure.
Protestant Churches generally believe original sin is of such a nature that man becomes completely and utterly alienated from
God and His truth. This interpretation is a very serious error and has led to a belief system that completely transfers guilt from
man to God in regards to the cause of sin, and also, trivializes natural law in regards to it's value to God's plan of salvation as it
contradicts St. Paul's teachings which state that natural law has the capacity to prepare people for faith in Christ. As stated
earlier, the inherited defect makes people vulnerable to evil and incapable of overcoming it's delusional and debilitating affects,
but does not take away their conscience, as they maintain a sense of the difference between right and wrong, though in a more
limited form. Their imperfect but intact conscience gives them the opportunity to struggle to do the right thing, but is also
something that can make life in this fallen, unjust world so difficult to bear, as they observe and experience the injustice and are
appalled by it but realize there is not much they can do about it, at least until they find God. Realizing this leads them to look for
Christ and God.
Baptism removes the defect caused by original sin but does not immediately remove all the learned errors that lead people to
sin and does not remove a person from life in a world full of temptation. The Church is the tool that God offers man to assist in
correcting these learned errors and to struggle to avoid sin in this world, and even though the Church is not perfect in it's
understanding of all matters it is capable of leading people into a condition where they are prepared to receive the fullness of
the Holy Spirit. Even in the fullness of the Spirit a person may not posses complete understanding, but this is not necessary in
order to avoid sin since that person has faith and discernment in the Spirit. A person in the Spirit will always gain the wisdom
which is necessary in order to fulfill God's purposes for them in His efforts to save men.