Augustine and "Original Sin."
By Chris Hill
Original Sin is the principal notion in which the majority of modern day theology is supported. Understanding the origins of the doctrine of original sin is key in unraveling the theological mess in present day Christianity. This doctrine was blended into Christian teaching in third-forth century Rome. (NOT the Reformation!) There were several players involved and many theories expounded. Up to that time the free will of man was a given in Christian teaching. This is confirmed in the Scriptures and clearly stated in early Christian writings passed down by second generation disciples.
The original sin doctrine teaches that Adam and Eve's guilty consciences and wicked natures have been transmitted to their posterity, descending from them by ordinary generation. Thus Adam's sin has been "imputed" automatically to his descendants (with the exception of Jesus of course). His fall from grace resulted in the entire human race being utterly inclined toward evil. Mankind in his natural state is entirely disabled, opposite of all good and ferociously wicked to the core. Thus man is subject to punishment and death for Adam's (original) sin. He sins by necessity, NOT by choice and is born DEAD in his sins.
Basically this doctrine is divided into two major camps of thought. Namely: Traducianism and Creationism.
Traducianism teaches that the immaterial aspect of the (soul) is transmitted through nature generation along with the body (material aspect of man), meaning that each soul born is derived (not directly from God!) but DIRECTLY from the souls or (loins) of the parents. Therefore all souls were "in Adam" at the time of his creation by God. (God retired from the soul creating business after Adam so to speak.) Adam is the "Natural Head" of the entire human race by which the rest of us sprang by natural generation. (All infected by his original sin.) This is one early theory expounded in ancient times, but seldom embraced today.
Creationism on the other hand teaches that God creates EACH soul individually for each body that is generated. (This is supported a hundred fold in the Scriptures!) Adam then was our representative and entered into a "Covenant" agreement with God (which cannot be found anywhere in scripture.) on condition of his continued obedience in the garden. Thus the penalty for violating this covenant would be Adam's corruption and death (separation from God) and that of his posterity. Since the fall of Adam, this sentence of condemnation causes God to immediately "impute" each soul He creates with Adam's sin and depraved nature. This is called the: Federal Headship Theory and is the basics of all reformed theology since the reformation.
If the Jewish Rabbis did not teach the doctrine of original sin nor the early Christians who followed the Apostles, WHERE did it come from? Paul certainly did not teach it in Romans chapter 5, as is generally accepted by almost all modern scholars. Otherwise his disciples (who wrote extensively) would have expounded on it! On the contrary, they spoke against such teaching mainly because it is a GNOSTIC myth! The Gnostics were prevalent in the Roman Empire during the second-third and forth centuries and their teaching spread like wild fire through the populace by a cult named the Manicheans.
Inevitably Manichean teaching became blended into Christianity as a result of MANY devote followers of the so-called Prophet: Mani (AD 210-276) considering themselves "Christians" because of their austere life styles. One prominent person in Rome at the time who followed this teaching was AUGUSTINE of Hippo. Although he is heralded in Christianity as one of the greatest theologians of all time, it is through his efforts that the doctrine of original sin is engrained into main-stream teaching to this day and has thus rendered the preaching of real repentance and faith null and void. Augustine concluded in his writings and teaching that Adam's sin (in the garden) is physically transmitted and genetically derived from parent to child through the concupiscence (lust) that accompanies sexual reproduction. For that reason the infection of Adam's sin is passed down through "sexual intercourse" to the entire human race (except for Jesus, who was born of the man-made doctrine of Immaculate Conception).
Before you can even begin to unravel this mess and understand what the Bible really teaches concerning repentance and faith, you MUST grasp the impact of this doctrine on the nature of God. Augustine was a FALSE TEACHER! If you fail to see this in its proper light, you will remain in the dark concerning these things and none of this will make any sense to you. Clearly he converted to Christianity out of necessity (from Manicheanism) in 387AD, because of a royal edict by the Emperor who outlawed Manicheanism teaching in Rome. Because of his background in Gnostic teaching and influence of certain other Bishops, he immediately began to BLEND this teaching into Christian thought. Augustine was highly educated and a professor of rhetoric at a very early age, which gave him access to the high courts of Rome and entrance into high powered society.
Basically Gnostic/ Manichean teach a DUAL NATURE of man. (Christian doctrine has NEVER taught this!) One side is a world of light, good and virtuous. The other (material world) is of darkness or inherently evil. Each world is presided over by a god. Everything material (man's flesh) is evil by nature from birth and drawn only toward sin. Only the immaterial soul is the light, pure and undefiled. Sins of the flesh cause the pure soul to be imprisoned in a corrupted body. Their way out was the hope of the re-incarnation cycle to move them closer to salvation. They also embraced "election".
Hence, you have the teaching embraced by Christian doctrine of the "sinful nature", as taught in all the Churches today. Man in his converted (Born Again) state remains the "Chief of sinners" and "Roman's wretch". The old man is NOT crucified with Christ in repentance (where the sin stops!) but by a process of sanctification or by simple imputation (the moral transfer of Jesus' righteousness and obedience to the believer). This teaching is the PERFECT excuse for men to remain in bondage to sin and not be condemned by God. The fear of judgment for ungodly conduct is eliminated entirely! Augustine (who himself had a huge problem with sexual lust) LOVED this doctrine and expounded on it in his writings significantly. Consequently, his influence has spread through the ages and planted the seeds of Calvinist-Lutheran heresy in the 1500's and framed main-stream reformed theology to this day (all this can be easily confirmed by some historical research, ie: History of the Church 1 Henry Chadwick).
What this doctrine boils down to is the elimination of free will. If man is born, already imputed with Adam's sin by reason of his birth, he no longer has a CHOICE but becomes a sinner by NECESSITY. His sin is a malady over which he has absolutely no control whatsoever. Humans are born incapable of doing anything good without the "gracious influence" of Divine Grace bestowed randomly as God wills on certain individuals. By rejecting this concept the house of cards that supports all the other doctrinal fallacies immediately crumbles. Original sin necessitates election, moral transfer, pre-forgiveness of sins, limited Atonement, irresistible grace, and eternal security! ALL of which make it IMPOSSIBLE for man to turn to God, truly repent of his sins (be cleared of his wrong doing!), and be purged by the Blood of Christ and made pure by faith working by love!
Much of the foundation of these false doctrines can be traced directly back to Augustine. Failure to see this is the main reason most people in the churches remain in bondage to sin and blinded by lies. History clearly shows that this 'dual nature' teaching was blended into Christian doctrine in forth Century Rome and Augustine was one of the major players in promoting it. He wrote huge volumes advocating just war, the Church militant on earth and the dual nature of man. They are studied considerably in modern seminaries and sold in Christian book stores. Any teaching that exposes these things as false is suppressed, difficult to find and highly suspect of error among today;s so-called scholars (but you can find them at on-line book sellers). The "sinful nature" teaching has also infected many modern translations of the Bible including the New International Version, which translates the word "flesh" (Sarx 4561) to: "sinful nature" in Romans, but NOT in other passages such as in 1st and 2nd John.
There are two main New Testament passages that are used by those who have embraced the Augustinian Tradition in order to provide a measure of support and to prove there beloved theory of original sin. They are as follows:
"For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Co. 15:21-22).
This passage is used to support the representation theory that ALL (spiritually and physically) die due to the transmission of Adam's original sin. However, this passage is strictly speaking of physical death, being the context is referencing the future (physical) resurrection of the dead (1 Co. 15). Hence, "even so in Christ all SHALL BE (future) made alive". According to Paul, physical death is a consequence springing from the man (Adam), just as a glorified body shall come in the future through the Man, Jesus Christ. Now, how is it man dies on an account of Adam's sin? I believe Adam was created mortal, that is, flesh and blood (Gen. 2:7; 3:19; 1 Co. 15:45-50). Through his personal act of disobedience he lost for himself (and descendants) physical access to the "Tree of Life" which he (and we) must eat from to "live forever" (Gen. 3:22). As follows, man physically dies due to being separated from this tree, but can regain physical access to its fruit (in the future) through Jesus Christ (Rev. 22:14).
"Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all have sinned" (Ro. 5:12).
Clearly, this passage is speaking of personal sin by imitation ('because all sinned') rather than inherited sin through imputation (Gen. 2:17; Ro. 5:12). In fact, Paul reports there were some individuals who lived after Adam, who sinned NOT according to the "likeness" of his original transgression (Ro. 5:14)! The word "have" indicates an activity on every individual's part. Sin is voluntary. All that have sinned are the ones who have sinned. As follows, sin is not a physical substance that is inbred in your flesh, rather, sinfulness is a result of living out aimless conduct received by tradition (or long practiced habit) from your fathers. (1 Pe. 1:18). Therefore, just as through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and (spiritual) death through sin, and thus (spiritual) death spread to all men, BECAUSE ALL SINNED" (Gen. 2:17; 3:6; Ro. 3:23; 5:12; 1 Co. 10:13; Jas. 1:13-16)!
It should be noted that Augustine relied on the translation of the Latin Vulgate, (Catholic translation of the Bible) because he was unable to read Koine Greek. So, when he came to Romans 5:12 he read, "As sin entered the world by one man and death because of sin, so death spread into all men, IN WHOM all sinned." Thus, we arrive at another aspect that influenced the notion of the doctrine known as, 'original sin'. In the Latin Bible, the last part of Romans 5:12 passage is translated "in quo", meaning, "in whom" all sinned, which does NOT agree with the original Greek or the English which expresses the conclusion of Romans 5:12 as follows: "for that all have sinned" (AV), "because all men sinned" (RSV) and "because all sinned" (NKJV).
Does the Bible teach that all men are automatically made righteous by Christ apart from repenting and believing in the Gospel (Mk. 1:15; Acts 17:30-31; 20:21)? Of course not! Then why is it automatically assumed that all men are automatically made sinners by Adam apart from choice (Ro. 5:18)? The idea of original sin being hereditary is contrary to many parts of the Bible. For instance, Deuteronomy 24:16 states, "Fathers shall NOT be put to death for their children, nor children for their fathers...every man shall be put to death for his own sin", while in Ezekiel 18:4 God confirms, "All souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sins, it shall die". This being the case, why would God allow the transmission of sin?
The 'sin nature' doctrine plainly contradicts other parts of the Bible and erroneously makes God the author of sin. Under this teaching, sin becomes a calamity (instead of a crime) and consequently places ALL un-baptized and aborted babies into hell. This doctrine has handicapped Ministers ability to call sinners to repentance and effectively preach against immoral behavior. Consequently, the Churches have been overrun with double-minded professing Christians who are ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of truth! This teaching is utterly absurd, unfounded, unscriptural and promotes other false doctrines. For example, If the notion of original sin was valid, then it must be just as true that Jesus was born of a woman who was infected with this disease and thus shaped our sinless Lord in her very iniquity (Psa. 51:5 & Heb. 4:15)! The only way to avoid this blasphemes predicament is to embrace the Roman Catholic Dogma termed 'Immaculate Conception' which was invented to remedy the issue of Christ being infected with original sin.
Original sin is Gnostic and utterly false! Truly, this teaching is the Devil's masterpiece! By it, Satan has taken himself OUT of the picture completely! Man's bodily desires are now to be blamed for its constant wrong doings in the world, rather than the Devil's tempting and influential schemes. Because man's own nature (according to original sin) is wholly corrupted and entirely incapable of virtuous actions in thought or deed, Satan need NOT prowl anymore to seek and devour all who would submit to his influences. (Jas. 1:13-16; 1 Pe. 5:8; 1 Jn. 2:15-16)! Why? Because the inevitable consequences of all man's actions are already wicked and depraved from birth. No longer does Satan need to launch his fiery darts or lay in wait to deceive, instead, the (inherited) sinful nature will do it for him! He can just sit back and wait for the preachers to keep telling their lies and the so-called Christians to keep coming forth in their sins, thinking they are save!