Monday 27 February 2012

Original Sin and Sin of Origin

Across at Sansblogue Tim Bulkeley has some interesting thoughts on the intimidating doctrine of 'original sin'.  Seeing those comments are in part related to Peter Enns' book, maybe the following quote might be relevant.
George L. Murphy
[I]t is helpful to keep in mind the crucial theological distinction expressed succinctly by Lutheran theologian George L. Murphy.  This distinction is between "original sin" and "sin of origin."  The former, as bequeathed to us through Augustine, refers to an event at the beginning of history and requires a historical Adam as the first human to sin and transmit that sin to all subsequent humans.  The latter affirms the absolute inevitability of sin that affects every human being from their beginnings, from birth.  In other words, Murphy and others counsel that we must remain open on the ultimate origins of why all humans are born in sin (original sin) while resting content in the observation that all humans are born in sin (sin of origin)... the notion of "original sin," where Adam's disobedience is the cause of a universal state of sin, does not find clear - if any - biblical support.
It's a subtle distinction - but then, hey, this is theology.  As Enns points out earlier in his book, there is no such doctrine derived from the Genesis story in Judaism.

As for Murphy, who'd have thought you could be a Lutheran theologian with an Irish surname... isn't there some kind of rule about that?  He also apparently has a doctorate in theoretical physics; I just bet he isn't LCMS!

And I'm also led to wonder, not for the first time, whether the world would have been a much better place if that old reprobate Augustine hadn't converted from Manicheanism.


  1. Analyzing the Booklist of Dr James McGrath,, I can see by a number of these titles that he has already matriculated from his agonizing reconciliation with Darwin. Good for him! That makes three now: Enns, Murphy and McGrath, still christians, still drawing serious money from the simple peasants.

  2. i'm with you on Augustine - not even the least of his theological sins. But to be fair if he hadn't come up with all that tosh, someone else would have, none of us are as unique as we like to think.

  3. Just come to grips with the fact the Adam and Eve story is myth and we cannot be blamed for sins committed by Hansel and Gretel.

  4. It states in Wikipedia: "In the first five chapters of Genesis the word אָדָם ( 'adam ) is used in all of its senses: collectively ("mankind"),[1:27] individually (a "man"),[2:7] gender nonspecific, ("man and woman")[5:1,2] and male."

    When someone poses the question "was there a historical adam?" what exactly are they asking? The word adam itself was a play on words. Hence, when making an assertion, one must always explain in what sense the term adam is being used in order to be properly understood.

    My reading of the Bible is that it permits either a single man named adam or a collection of men referred to as adam. It is strategically unclear. Either view works and a distinction is not made because it is not imporant to the concept.

    Is it possible that God elevated the sentience of mankind at some point so the true import of sin could be understood? Is it possible that a group of neolithic Middle Easterners, probably haplogrop J1, led the fledglng human civlization in a rejection of God preciptating a sea change in that civilization? This is plausible but represents only one interpretation.

    -- Neo

  5. I have an idea. Instead of asking "is it possible?" or "is it plausible", wouldn't it make sense to ask "which is more likely?"?

    So I ask, which is more likely: (1) that God plays favorites and the Hebrews were his chosen people or (2) that these were made-up stories that are no better nor worse than the made-up stories of other cultures throughout the world.

  6. Augustine only 'converted' because his mom arranged him a marriage to wealthy Catholic lady. He was interested in the wealth more than the lady, I'm sure, since he promptly left his whore by whom he had had so many illegitimate childrens to marry the money -- because he knew that with money like that he'd have a shot at becoming a bishop! Which, of course, back then was like being Mayor or something, maybe even bigger than Mayor since Bishops could have an affect on the whole Empire and sit in Ecumenical Councils -- so more like a Congressman. So one day, after his mommy arranged for him to marry Miss Money, he conveniently opened the Bible accidentally to "thou shalt not be a drunk" after hearing a voice from heaven (muttered by his own self) "Tolle Lege" and then he kicked his whore out in the street to become a prostitute and left his children to starve and became a great saint to set all us Pelagians strait and how us how to properly live the Christian life!!!! Amen.