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Original sin
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Original sin

The factual accuracy of this article is disputed.

Essentially, Original sin is the doctrine, shared in one form or another by most Christian churches, that the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden changed or damaged human nature, such that all human beings since the fall are innately predisposed to sin, and are powerless to overcome this predisposition without divine intervention. There are wide-ranging disagreements among Christian groups as to the exact understanding of this doctrine, and some Christian groups deny it altogether.

Table of contents
1 Original sin in Judaism
2 Original sin in The New Testament
3 Original Sin in Catholicism
4 Original Sin in Orthodox Christianity
5 Original Sin in the Unification Church
6 Original Sin in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Original sin in Judaism

According to the account in Genesis 3, the original humans lived in a state of intimate fellowship with God, and enjoyed a perfect harmony with one another and with nature. They were, however, forbidden by God to eat of the fruit of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." The serpent persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey this commandment. This led to several dire consequences, including the loss of intimate fellowship with God, man's susceptibility to physical death, a distortion of the relationship between the man and the woman, and the loss of man's harmonious relationship with nature. All these consequences were 'inherited' by Adam and Eve's descendents; However, people are not sinful by default. Growing into the role God planned for humanity required leaving Eden. The sin of Adam and Eve was not the eating of the fruit — but the attempt to pass the blame for the action. Adam pointed his finger to Eve who in turn tried to blame the serpent. Jewish tradition doesn't attach any particularly negative symbolic significance to the serpent. In fact, the coiled serpent is the symbol for the Israelite tribe of Dan. Judaism sees no "evil" other than the evil actions of human beings so they disagree with Christian traditions that identify the serpent with Satan.

Eve's only transgression was that she disobeyed God's order. It is also clear from the Hebrew that Adam was with her the entire time and at no time stopped her. Therefore, it is incorrect to blame Eve alone. Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden and had to live ordinary, human lives. In other words, they had to "leave home" and grow up and live as responsible human beings. If they had never eaten from the forbidden tree, they would have never discovered their capacity to act with free will in the world. And according to the Jewish tradition, God doesn't want human beings who have no choice but to always choose to do what is good and right. When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden, they were like robots, without free will. Therefore, it was actually a blessing to have been expelled! Adam and Eve were the first humans to act on their free will--and this is ultimately what God wanted!

Original sin in The New Testament

The New Testament teaching on original sin is briefly summarized by the Apostle Paul, who wrote: "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned." (Rom 5:12 NRSV).

The experience of original sin, and the spiritual pain it produces in the one who wishes to please God, is dramatically summed up by Paul in the following verses: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:15-24)

The solution to this dilemma is stated by Paul in these terms: "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4)

Though the New Testament doctrine of original sin is most clearly expressed by Paul, it is also implicit in the teachings of Jesus: for example in such words as: "And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." (Mark 10:18) and "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5).

Original Sin in Catholicism

Scholastic theologians believed that original sin is passed through each generation of human being, because it affects the physical and material nature of man. These theologians teach that the soul is infused by God into the fertalized egg, which "stains" (macula) the soul. The teaching of the Immaculate Conception states that this staining was prevented in the conception of Mary.

Original Sin in Orthodox Christianity

The Orthodox Church's teaching on Original Sin agrees strongly with the view presented above as being "Old Testament". In addition, the Church teaches that the specific act of the Original Sin is not the responsibility of all humanity. Instead, the consequences of that act exist and plague the world. Original Sin creates an environment within which it is simply not possible without direct Divine intervention for a human being to avoid some sort of actual committed sin some time in his or her life. In essence, it is a type of combined "spiritual environmental pollution" and "spiritual illness".

The Orthodox Church rejects the very common Western concept that Original Sin is some sort of inherited guilt. People are not presumed to bear personal responsibility for the acts of Adam.

Original Sin in the Unification Church

Genesis 2:17 is a key Bible verse for discussions about the fall of man.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (KJV)

Even though Adam and Eve are described as eating the fruit, they did not "die" immediately (in the physical sense). According to the Unification Church interpretation, they "died" in a spiritual sense: their relationship with God was cut off.

According to Unification Theology, Adam and Eve sinned by having a sexual relationship before they had reached perfection. The "fruit of knowledge" was a symbol of Eve's sexual love, which could be either good (if centered on God) or evil (if not). Eve was initially tempted into sin by the Archangel Lucifer, who seduced her. The reason Adam and Eve hid their "lower parts" after the Original Sin is similar to the reason a child having swiped cookies might hide their hands ("I have concealed by transgressions like Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom." -- Job 31:33)

Original Sin in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (also known as Mormons) acknowledge that the actions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden brought about the Fall. However, rather than lament this choice, Mormons recognize that the Fall was an essential part of God's plan for mankind. Therefore, rather being an obstacle placed by Satan in a attempt to foil the purposes of God, it was a momentous progression in God's plan of happiness for His children. It was a downward, but a forward step to return mankind back to the presence of God.

The Second Article of Faith of the LDS Church states: "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." Thus, Mormons generally reject the notion of original sin in favor of the doctrine of the Fall, just explained. However, Mormons do recognize the state of mankind as being fallen, incident to the actions in the Garden of Eden. Consequences of this fallen state include Spiritual Death (i.e. separation from God) and Physical Death (i.e. separation of the spirit from the body).

The life and mission of Jesus Christ was to redeem all mankind from the consequences of the Fall. Thus, because of Jesus Christ, mankind may one day be resurrected and return into the presence of God.

Mormons do not believe that the transgression in Eden was of a sexual nature - it could not have been, for God commanded Adam and Eve to multiply and replenish the Earth. This implies that sexual relations between our progenitors were sanctioned by Him, and that they were de facto married by God in Eden. Thus Eve did not sexually seduce Adam, nor were there any others in Eden with whom Eve could have betrayed Adam to be unfaithful. Likewise, Mormons do not blame Eve for being the first to partake of the fruit (if indeed, it actually was a fruit), but rather celebrate her wisdom in recognizing that her descendents would have to be born, live and make righteous choices on Earth, learn to repent through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and pass through death, in order to eventually be fully redeemed and return to live with God again. It is better to pass through the sorrow of this life, in order to know the Good from the Evil, rather than to exist in a perpetual state of innocence and stagnant ignorance.


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