The Beauty of Original Sin
The idea, or doctrine, of Original Sin got a bad name, probably because of dour Calvinists (who were very unlike the real Calvin). But in fact, it's a very liberating notion. Think about this (remembering that the idea is bound up with that of God's proactive redemption):
- No more Goodies versus Baddies. We tend to divide humanity into two camps: Goodies and Baddies. Goodies are those who are 'OK' in our eyes; Baddies are those who are not. But, under the doctrine of original sin, all of us are infected, all still bear some of God's image. So all humanity is my fellow, my clan, my brother.
- It can make me tolerant of others. If everyone is infected by original sin, then when someone does something wrong I'm not greatly fazed. But if I reject the idea of original sin, then I come to expect them - especially the Goodies - to be perfect, and get annoyed when I find they're not.
- It helps me with fellow Christians. We tend to impose too high and unrealistic standards on fellow Christians, leading to all sorts of disunity. But if we remember that everyone is infected, even after salvation has hit a person, then I can lower my expectations, and love them more.
- I no longer need to justify myself. If I am only accepted (by God or others) when I'm 'OK', then I will try to hide my flaws or try to justify them, trying to make myself and others believe they're not flaws. But if I'm accepted by the Living God in spite of my deeply ingrained sin, then I can relax and no longer need to justify myself or pretend to myself, to others or to God. Hallelujah! Freedom!
- I am more able to accept criticism. If we are all tainted, then so am I. So if someone criticises me then, in principle, they are only pointing out a detail of what I know is already wrong with me - thus I can accept it and even welcome it. (In practice, it's a little more complex of course, when people criticise in order to attack rather than inform; I find being attacked is painful. But the doctrine of original sin does help me even here, because ...)
- It puts attacks in perspective. When people attack or undermine me it's very painful. But the idea of original sin helps me see that their propensity to attack does not make them my enemy, but rather is just part of their portion of original sin.
- It can help me keep myself in perspective. No longer do I need believe that I am somehow better than others. No longer need I assume I have a right to protection from attack. My real value comes, not by being better, but by being saved. And all can be saved by God.
In these ways the idea of Original Sin, linked with God's redemption, is a real blessing. I find it profoundly beautiful. And practical. Even though I am still learning to live in its light.
Do you have any comments? Send them to "xn @ basden . u-net . com".
This article is a shortened version of a 30-page letter to Fox, entitled 'The Beauty of Original Sin', which is available from The Christian Studies Unit, 76 Waterside Way, Westfield, Radstock, Bath, BA3 3YQ, U.K. or from the author, costing £1-75.
Dr. Andrew Basden is Reader in Knowledge Systems at the Information Systems Institute of the University of Salford, was joint leader of a small evangelical church, and is a member of the U.K. Green Party.
Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 1998.
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