Thursday, September 11, 2008

Original sin and inherited guilt

Does it make sense to say that we inherit guilt from our ancestors, recent or remote? It makes sense that you can inherit money from Mom and Dad. Guilt? I would admit that that is harder to see.

25 comments:

Ilíon said...

The doctrine of Original Sin isn't about inheriting guilt for Adam's specific sin. It's about inheriting, as Adam's offspring, a corrupted nature.

Orthodox/historical Christian Biblically-founded doctrine on this is *not* that we are sinners because we commit sins (*), but rather that we cannot not sin, because we are sinners.


(*) This way lies Pelagianism.

Despite their errors regarding "free will," the Calvinists do have a very good point about the danger of modern "Arminianism" (the quote marks are intentional, and I think necessary at this point) to tend to Pelagianism.

IF we are sinners due to our actions, rather than our nature, THEN what need have we of Christ? If that is the case, then we can "save" ourselves by our own actions -- and then hold ourselves morally justified in joining the rebellion against God and Godly religion because he refuses to endorse our "salvation" as genuine.

normajean said...

Good post, Illion, but suppose Christ is necessary by virtue of the fact that God knows that all free creatures would sin. On that count wouldn’t your dilemma be defused?

Ilíon said...

VR: "Does it make sense to say that we inherit guilt from our ancestors, recent or remote?"

Ilíon: "The doctrine of Original Sin isn't about inheriting guilt for Adam's specific sin. It's about inheriting, as Adam's offspring, a corrupted nature.

Orthodox/historical Christian Biblically-founded doctrine on this is *not* that we are sinners because we commit sins (*), but rather that we cannot not sin, because we are sinners.
"

NormaJean: "... but suppose Christ is necessary by virtue of the fact that God knows that all free creatures would sin. On that count wouldn’t your dilemma be defused?"

But, NormaJean, your question presupposes that it is our acts which make us into sinners. This is the very idea it was my intention to show absurd ... if Christianity is true. If Christianity is not true, then it may not be absurd (*).

Also -- according to Christ (or, at any rate, as commonly understood) -- not *all* free creatures have sinned. The angels are as free creatures as we, are they not? According to Christ, some rebelled against God and some did not. (**)

As I said, if Christianity is not true, then the presupposition of the question may not be absurd. And yet, does not all human experience -- both of our own selves and of others and of history in general -- tell us that the presupposition is at least false? Or even absurd?

Do we all not know -- if we will be honest -- that we cannot even trust our own individual selves, much less trust someone else, to be "without sin?" Even if "sin" is understood (incorrectly, according to Christianity) to be merely about acts?


Christianity denies this presupposition of your question and in contrast asserts/presupposes that the sin-which-is-killing-us is in our nature, rather than in our acts (however sinful specific acts may be). As the sin-which-is-killing-us is in our nature, there is nothing we can do, no act we can undertake, no effort me can make to repair the brokenness inherent in us.

Ilíon said...

oops, I lost the "footnotes" to the prior post:

(*) But, since I believe Christianity true (and know of no good reasons to disbelieve Christianity), I *must* see the presupposition of the queston as absurd and as leading to further absurdity.


(**) Way off topic: I sometimes wonder (not quite speculate, but merely wonder) whether it is not the case that *we* are those "fallen angels" and that this moral life (and his entry into it, of course) is how God is rescuing us from that rebellion. You know, the ninety-and-nine thing, and the turning of the house upside down (or going off to search) to find/redeem the one lost one.

Mike Darus said...

I might be helpful to interact with Romans 5:12-20. The comparison of the affect of Adam's sin to the affect of Christ's death leads to this idea of "inherited guilt." The better theological term is "imputed guilt." also see "Federal Headship."

kermit said...

Ilion (and I guess everyone else) if it's not our actions that determine our nature, then what does determine our nature?

Maybe I'm just dense, but it has always puzzled me that eating fruit from the tree of knowledge (NOT the tree of [insert deadly sin here]) got them kicked out of Eden.

If it's about inheriting Adam's corrupted nature, NOT Adam's guilt, then wouldn't we - as Adam's supposed offspring who were raised by him - tend to be MORE virtuous? Aren't parents more strict with their children in the areas where they themselves failed, and more lenient/forgiving in areas where they they succeeded?

Ilíon said...

Kermit: "Ilion (and I guess everyone else) if it's not our actions that determine our nature, then what does determine our nature?"

Before I attempt to answer your question, I want you to look carefully at what you've asked, how you've asked it, and try to consider the thought process it seems to reflect.

Whether you intend it this way or not (and I certainly hope you do not), the structure of the question proclaims that nothing I can say will budge you from your current (apprent) belief that it is our actions which determine our nature.

Now, please don't misunderstand: I certainly am not even insinuating that any person should automatically and uncritically accept any claim (by me or by anyone else). But, what I'm trying to get at here is that I've already shown the inadequacy, or at minimun seriously called into question the adequacy, of the belief that it is our actions which determine our nature. Your question, the structure of it, the background thinking it appears to reflect, seems to me to be saying: "Well, sure, the belief that it is our actions which determine our nature is at least inadequate to explain reality, and may be quite false. But until you give me a new belief I am satisfied with, I'll continue to believe my old inadequate (or incorrect) belief."


More concerning the inadequacy ... or outright falseness ... of the belief that it is our actions and behaviors which determine our natures:


1) If this belief were correct, then a great deal of Christ's teaching must surely be nonsensical (I expect certain folk to misconstrue that as being a fallacious argument; it is not, it's a statement). Consider: "If you hate your brother, if you're angry at another without cause, you are already guilty of murder." Or: "If you look at a woman (who is not your woman) with lust in your heart, you are already guilty of adultery." Are these claims true? Are they false? Are they nonsense?

The claims don't *appear* to be nonsense. Even those who hate Christ generally understand what is being said ... and when it's to their benefit, they're often quite willing to endorse the claims (at least in regard to others).

But how can a person be guilty of murder or adultery or some other specific sin if he has never done the physical deed(s)? It is because the deed is but the reflection of what is already there in the person's nature and character.

How can one possibly commit the act of murder or the act of adultery (or any other sinful act) unless it is already within one's nature to commit the act? How can one be contrary to one's nature -- is it not an oxymoron, a contradiction-in-terms, to even suggest that something can be what it is not?

As I asked NormaJean, does not our own knowledge of our own specific selves, much less of all our fellows -- and quite apart from the "deep" questions I've just asked you -- give us good reason to doubt that the problem/flaw with humans is merely our behaviors?


1a) Are not we *all* quite capable of desiring to murder? Have we not *all* entertained (some of us, even lovingly and in exquisite detail) horrible fantasies about what someone who has angered us "deserves?"

And, if we are Christians -- if we claim to acknowledge that Jesus is God's Christ to us, that he is indeed God come into our little corner of reality -- then understanding Christ's assertions and doing a bit of thinking about them, such as I've written out above, how can we continue to whinge about the "unfairness" of it all?

If we are indeed Christians, how can we continue the charade about "innocent" (*) human beings? "Innocent" is all well and fine if we're talking about human law and institutions, for we cannot really know another's heart, but only at best his actions.

But God knows our hearts, he knows our natures: and there is not one of us who is innocent of sin.

(*) "Innocent" -- I used quote marks (and in a different context did not) because the word *really* means "ignorant." It doesn't really mean "free of guilt."


2) Consider two hypothetical old men living in a nursing facility. These men are quadriplegics in iron lungs; they've been in this state since earliest childhood. One is hateful and spiteful, the other is the diametric opposite.

Now, *if* it is our actions and behaviors which determine our natures, then should we not be inclined to claim that these men have no natures? For, after all, they have no physical acts (*) to their credit, either for good or bad; they can do nothing and they have never done anything at all in their entire lives -- except verbally express what is in their hearts.

But it's absurd, is it not, to say that these men are without natures? (And didn't I just describe their natures?) But, how can they have natures if they have no actions and it is our actions which determine our natures?

On the other hand, if our actions reflect our natures, then there is no problem here: these men are no different from you and me.


(*) I'm making a point of saying "physical" because I suspect that, as is common, you will be understanding 'act' as denoting a physical behavior. An 'act' is actually a decision, a "movement" of the will, regardless of whether it is ever manifest as a behavior.


=== more in another post, later =====

Doctor Logic said...

Ilíon,

What happens after you get saved? What happens to this dark nature? Does God cure it?

Anonymous said...

"For, after all, they have no physical acts (*) to their credit, either for good or bad; they can do nothing and they have never done anything at all in their entire lives -- except verbally express what is in their hearts."

A verbal expression is a physical act.

The only way we can determine what kind of characters they have is through their physical actions.

And it strikes me as unethical to judge a man for having thoughts he does not act on.

Ilíon said...

Doctor Logic: "What happens after you get saved? What happens to this dark nature? Does God cure it?"

Doctor Logic, as I've mentioned to you once before, you are so ill-named: my offer to lend you my first syllable for a while stands.

You are certainly asserting the very sort of "argument" that Kermit may not have been (however much the form of his question suggests that he may have been). And you're attempting distraction, question-begging, non-sequitur, argument-to-consequences, "argument of personal incredulity" (people of your mindset like to accuse others of that one, don't you?), etc.

What I have said ... and offered evidence for the assertion ... is that we are flawed in our very natures. If you want to dispute *that* then do so ... though, of course, you and everyone else knows it is true. Trying to change the subject will not change the matter.

What God does or does not do with our individual natures during salvation doesn't change the facts of our condition *now:* we are deeply flawed and we have always, at all times and in all places, known it.

Doctor Logic said...

Ilíon,

Nice way to evade the question.

While we're being so chummy, let me offer you a ride in my time machine back to your home in the Dark Ages of superstition and myth.

Ilíon said...

Doctor Logic: "While we're being so chummy, let me offer you a ride in my time machine back to your home in the Dark Ages of superstition and myth."

Doctor Logic,
As you doubtless know, I have no patience for the behaviors of fools. As you may not yet realize, the older I get (and I just had a birthday), the less patience for the behaviors of fools I find I have.

And you, clearly, are a fool -- you want to call yourself wise, but you run from wisdom, you refuse to think, you refuse to learn, you refuse even to engage what you claim to be arguing against. You call yourself "Doctor Logic," but you deal mostly in illogic.


Doctor (Il)Logic: "While we're being so chummy, let me offer you a ride in my time machine back to your home in the Dark Ages of superstition and myth."

What Invinvible Ignorance you manifest in clinging to your secularist mythology: your belief in "the Dark Ages" is the myth and superstition on display here. There never was such a thing -- the "Dark Ages" was one of the great periods of intellectual advancement in Western Civ.

If you know -- and cared -- about history and truth, you'd know this.


Doctor (Il)Logic: "Nice way to evade the question."

Yes, how terribly wicked of me to decline your choice of attempted out-of-place digression, which you hope to turn into a rabbit-trail.


Once again: What I have said ... and offered evidence for the assertion ... is that we are flawed in our very natures. If you want to dispute *that* then do so ...

Since you appear to have nothing to say about that, why not go bother someone else? As things stand -- unless you make a drastic change in your "argument" -- I suspect I shall be ignoring your "response" as not worth my time.

And, since I've already mocked your irrational and illogical behavior, a reprise would be but a reprise (i.e. a waste of time). If Gentle Reader wishes to know what I think the the sort of "argument" I justifiably expect your next post to be, he need but refer to this post and my previous.

Anonymous said...

"But it's absurd, is it not, to say that these men are without natures? (And didn't I just describe their natures?) But, how can they have natures if they have no actions and it is our actions which determine our natures? "

They do have actions: speech is a physical action.

You have no way to determine another's character without their physical action.

Anonymous said...

"What happens after you get saved? What happens to this dark nature? Does God cure it?"

Looks like a red herring, doctor logic. You really should know better than to commit such a fallacy given your pseudonym.

Kairosfocus said...

Re: "You have no way to determine another's character without their physical action."

Equivocation, I am afraid.

We may infer to our view of another's character from their behaviour, but our act of observation and our thoughts of inference do not causally determine that character.

Action expresses character, and may affect it, but absent a basic capacity rooted in what we essentially are, we cannot carry out an action. And, that we are finite, fallible, and too often ill willed is all too evident. Indeed, even at our best we struggle to do the right on any consistent basis.

All of which are all too revealing on our inner nature.

Sadly. But then, that's why the gospel is "GOOD news.)

GEM of TKI

Doctor Logic said...

Ilíon, you rude boy.

It's obvious that you can see the relevance of salvation to the issue of sin. You're simply uncomfortable facing up to the obvious implications.

Suppose it were sinful to have bad-smelling excrement. Clearly, it is in our nature to sin in this way, and to inherit this nature from our ancestors. Now suppose I discover a one-time treatment which eliminates this problem. What should I do? Make the treatment available to everyone? Shall I torture people who excrete bad-smelling stuff? Let people suffer, but forgive the transgressors? Tricky issue? I don't think so.

Of course, if you don't believe in progress and elimination of human suffering (e.g., if you buy the neo-Christian lie about the Dark Ages), then you might think it is a tricky issue. (BTW, when you lose 90% of your knowledge, that's a dark age.)

Oh, and "truth" is not the same thing as "what Ilíon likes to believe."

Anonymous said...

"Re: "You have no way to determine another's character without their physical action."


Equivocation, I am afraid.

We may infer to our view of another's character from their behaviour, but our act of observation and our thoughts of inference do not causally determine that character.


Of course our observations don't causally determine another's character. You've grossly misunderstood what I wrote.

Another's physical actions are the only way we have to determine what their character is.

ilion tried to present an example of two men with different characters who had no physical acts to their credit. But then he went on to assert that they verbally expressed what was in their hearts. I was simply pointing out that to talk is an action. Therefore, they do have 'physical acts to their credit'.

I agree with you that we express our character through our actions.

Ilíon said...

I had intended to continue my response to Kermit. But, perhaps I need to deal with the Anonymouse (or Anonymice, it's so hard to tell).

Ilíon said...

Ilíon: "For, after all, they have no physical acts (*) to their credit, either for good or bad; they can do nothing and they have never done anything at all in their entire lives -- except verbally express what is in their hearts.
...
But it's absurd, is it not, to say that these men are without natures? (And didn't I just describe their natures?) But, how can they have natures if they have no actions and it is our actions which determine our natures?
...
(*) I'm making a point of saying "physical" because I suspect that, as is common, you will be understanding 'act' as denoting a physical behavior. An 'act' is actually a decision, a "movement" of the will, regardless of whether it is ever manifest as a behavior.
"

Anonymouse-Who-Is-Surely-A-Serious-Thinker: "A verbal expression is a physical act."

Anonymouse-Who-May-Or-May-Not-Be-The-Same: "They do have actions: speech is a physical action."

One Anonymouse, or two Anonymoi, it hardly matters, does it? The world is full of people who refuse to think about what they wish to dispute and never seem to notice the flaws swallowing up their disputation.


The thing being disputed here is the idea/doctrine knows as "Original Sin" -- the very sensible idea, constantly borne out and reinforced by experience, and understood even in cultures which had/have never heard of Christianity, that what is wrong with the world is nothing more than you and me. Specifically, that we are all flawed at our very core, that our very natures are corrupt: nothing corrupts us against our wills; we are already corrupt (that is, greater life-experience merely gives us greater scope to express our innate corruption).

To put this another way, the dispute might be phrased as between the questions of whether a human being becomes wicked by doing wicked deeds, or whether he does wicked deeds because he's already wicked -- Do we all start out as pure little angels of light, and experience corrupts us, makes us sinful -- will we, nill we? Or, are we corrupt/full-of-sin before we even get in the game?

To put it yet another way: do the things we do *cause* our natures (surely, Gentle Reader, you can see the self-contradictory absurdity of such an idea)? Or, do our natures cause, or at least allow, the things we do?


I offered a hypothetical case of two men who have been quadriplegics their entire lives, such that they have never done anything, nor even been physically capable of doing anything, except expressing (or lying about) what is on their minds and in their hearts. I stipulated that one is clearly a vile creature, and the other not obviously vile.

Our Anonymouse or Anonymice, being both disputatious and ignorant (and, apprently, satisfied to be so), imagines he/they have overthrown the argument I've been presenting against the notion that we start out "innocent" and get corrupted against our wills, somehow: either by something outside ourselves (for instance, that old bugaboo, "society"), or by some physical activity or other.

Our Anonymouse (or Anonymice) appears to imagine either that:
1) The thoughts we express (regardless of whether we happen to be lying with any specific expression) originate somewhere other than our very own selves; or,
2) *Any* physical activity or behavior will be, or at least potentially can be, of moral significance, such that it can determine -- cause-to-be-what-it-is -- our very natures.

Our Anonymouse (or Anonymice) appears to be ignorant of the fact that all speach is inherently meaningless -- there is no more inherent meaning, nor moral significance, in the noises which come out of our mouths than there is in the blinking of our eyes or the beating of our hearts. *ALL* the meaning attached to speach in entirely in the minds of the speaker and his audience; the sounds themselves mean nothing, signify nothing themselves, and never can. In fact, it really would be impossible for us to communicate if words were not meaningless symbols.

Does the blinking of one's eyes -- a "physical action," after all -- determine one's nature? Does the raising of goosebumps -- a "physical action," after all -- determine one's nature? Does one's bowel movements -- a "physical action," after all -- determine one's nature?

Of course not. Even were it the case that "physical actions" determine a person's nature, it clearly is not the case that any old "physical action" will do. Apparently, these "physical actions" must have some sort of moral significance or meaning, if they are to do the trick.


But, let us imagine that speach is not meaningless, both as to meaning and as to morality. Let us imagine that Anonymouse (or Anonymice) was able to make a good objection to my hypothetical.

And let us make a slight modification to the hypothetical. Let us imagine that there really is such a thing as telepathy. And let us imagine that human beings do not (and never have) communicated verbally -- by physically moving the mouths and other body part and producing noises. Rather, let us imagine that human beings have always communicated telepathically.

Now what are we to make of our two hypothetical quadriplegic men?

Have they no natures whatsoever? For, after all, now they haven't even performed the "physical action" of speaking? If it is a person's "physical actions" which determine his nature, that must be the case. Right?

Or, are they both pure-as-the-driven-snow? Do they both contine to possess the "pure" natures that deniers of the "Original Sin" doctrine are logically asserting in that denial? Was I wrong to imagine that one of these men is clearly a vile creature ... even though he constantly telepathically says vile (or, should that be "vile") things to his care-takers?


Really, Anonymouse-Serious-Thinker! Do you imagine I didn't write what I wrote knowing full-well someone like you would come along and so ineffectually dispute it?

kairosfocus said...

A Quiet follow up:

Re|: >>Of course our observations don't causally determine another's character. You've grossly misunderstood what I wrote.

Another's physical actions are the only way we have to determine what their character is.>>

This attempted rebuttal to a correction simply underscores the equivocation I challenged a few days back.

When "we" set out to "determine" another's character, per that person's behaviour [including advertent or inadvertent communicative behaviour], "we" are making . . . an INFERENCE.

And, there is massive evidence that Ilion is right that there is massive evidence that something is radically and generally wrong with our nature; as a consensus across cultures that the more dangerous expressions of such misbehaviour have to be restrained reflects.

GEM of TKI

Anonymous said...

ilion wrote:
Our Anonymouse (or Anonymice) appears to imagine either that:
1) The thoughts we express (regardless of whether we happen to be lying with any specific expression) originate somewhere other than our very own selves; or,
2) *Any* physical activity or behavior will be, or at least potentially can be, of moral significance, such that it can determine -- cause-to-be-what-it-is -- our very natures.


Nope, I never said any such thing. Please re-read what I actually wrote.
I determine your character from your actions. That does not mean I cause your character to come into being. And I’ve explicitly stated that we express our thoughts with our words.


It is impossible for me or for you to determine what another person’s character is without some physical act on their part.

Anonymous said...

When "we" set out to "determine" another's character, per that person's behaviour [including advertent or inadvertent communicative behaviour], "we" are making . . . an INFERENCE.

Not sure why you have "we" or "determine" in scare quotes.

In any case, the only way we have to judge another's character is through their behavior (their physical acts). Those physical acts are criteria for determining their character. Those physical acts are partly constitutive of what it means to have a morally good or a morally bad character. I don't think any of us whould even know what being good or being bad means without such behavior.

Shackleman said...

Anonymous: Those physical acts are partly constitutive of what it means to have a morally good or a morally bad character. --snip-- I don't think any of us whould even know what being good or being bad means without such behavior.

I agree that one's behavior might be the only (or at least the best) way an *outsider* might be able to gain an *insight* into another's moral character. But it'd only be an insight. One wouldn't know for sure. Your argument seems to leave open the possibility of an "if I'm not caught, it's not wrong" mode of thinking, and I would doubt you think that appropriate.

And that's because one's character is measured against an objective standard of morality. If there's no objective standard of morality, then it's nonsense to even speak about "good or bad" behavior. And if there's an objective standard of morality, while one's behavior *might* be inline with that standard, one's *desires* might be diametrically opposed to that standard, and therefore one's character would be judged to be corrupt in spite of good behavior.

Anonymous said...

And if there's an objective standard of morality, while one's behavior *might* be inline with that standard, one's *desires* might be diametrically opposed to that standard, and therefore one's character would be judged to be corrupt in spite of good behavior.

“Objective standard of morality” is a red herring in this case. The person who believes in a subjective standard and the person who believes in an objective standard still use another’s behavior to determine that person’s character.

Also, I think it unethical to judge a person for desires that they do not act on.

Randy

Steve Finnell said...

WHAT IS SIN? BY STEVE FINNELL
What is sin and what makes us guilty of sin? Are we guilty of sin because of our own actions or are we guilty because Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden? Because of Adam's sin all men will die physically. Because men commit sin they die spiritually and need a Savior.

1 John 3:4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.


You are not counted as a law breaker due to that fact you were born. Being born is not a sin. Infants are not sinners.


James 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.


Adam's sin does not give birth to any one's spiritual death. The individuals own evil desire is responsible for sin and spiritual death. Is the baby in the womb enticed by its own evil lust and then, sins the moment it is born? Of course NOT.


Romans 14:11-12 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue give praise to God." 12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.


When you bow before Jesus you will not be required to give an account of Adam's sin. It will be every individuals task to give an account of himself.


ARE INFANTS GUILTY OF SIN? ABSOLUTELY NOT!


Infants would have to be law breakers to be guilty of sin.


1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.


How many infants do you know who are guilty of these sins?


Even it infants were guilty of sin, they could not meet the requirements of forgiveness of their sins.


Belief always precedes water baptism. (Mark 16:16)
Belief and repentance precede water baptism. (Acts 2:38)


Belief always precedes water baptism. (Acts 16:31-34 They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household. 34 .....having believed in God with his whole household.


Belief always precedes water baptism. NOTE: that there were no infants in the jailer's household. Why would that be the case? Because the whole household had come to believe in God. INFANTS CANNOT BELIEVE IN GOD!


Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.


Guilty of sin? YES.


Guilty of Adam's sin? NO.


If sin is inherited, then, why would the inherited sin of forgiven Christians be passed on? THERE WOULD BE NO SIN TO INHERIT!


HOW COULD YOU, AFTER HAVING BEING WASHED BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS CHRIST, HAVE INHERITED SIN TO PASS TO FUTURE GENERATIONS?

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com