Friday, December 29, 2006

Sin and Salvation

I just received a new comment on an old blog post. Rather than continue the discussion there, I've decided to start a whole new one here...

The anonymous comment said:
"All of the world's problems began when Adam and Eve broke God's law...that is what sin is, the breaking of God's law. I don't mean to sound condescending, but there are no levels or measures of sin, the bible says that our very best is as dirty rags, that is why His grace is through His sacrifice which He provided Himself...Read your bible every day and do what it says..."
The issue I have here is that the commenter (in general agreement with a huge portion of Christianity) is blaming all the world's problems on two people I really don't believe existed - or rather I don't believe the two characters described in the bible were two individual people. Perhaps there really were two people called Adam and Eve, but I am certain that they were not the first man and first woman and I am pretty certain that their eating of a piece of fruit was not the event which introduced sin to the world.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that sin isn't a problem, and I'm not saying that Jesus didn't need to die to atone for our sins, but I'm questioning the supposed origin of sin.

I've made this point before on this blog, but nobody commented then so I'll keep following this train of thought for a bit.

If we can't blame sin on two people about six thousand years ago, where did it come from?

If there really is no 'original sin' would it be possible (however unlikely) for someone (other than the Son of God) to live a perfect and sinless life? (By the way, how can we be sure that Jesus lived a sinless life? It is clear that he got angry and even cursed a poor defenceless fig tree for no good reason on at least one occasion - if we did this, would it not be considered 'sin'?)

Would such a person need salvation?

The bible makes it clear that Jesus is the only way for us to be reconciled to God. But who are the 'us' in this arrangement? All people or all sinners? Or are the two categories the same thing?

Any thoughts anyone?

I'm sure I had something more to say here, but I've forgotten. Maybe later...


Anonymous said...

Personally, I don't believe in original or inherited sin. I believe that sin simply came about because God gave us free will, and the ability to ignore or rebel against him.

I believe, therefore, that it is theoretically possible to live a perfect life, but Jesus is the only one who ever has.

So, to answer your question, personally, I don't belief a sinless person needs salvation, as they can reach heaven on their own merits, or the merits of the Old Law, no longer needing to attone for their sin, due to not having any.

David Meldrum said...

Interesting this. My own view is that the Ad & Eve narrative, like much of the beginning of Genesis, is a narrative in the language of contemporary myths to establish the view of what happened from a Jewish (and later, Christian) viewpoint.
Whatever you say on that, I feel there are a couple of things to add.
1) Evil/sin appears to be present in creation BEFORE Ad & Eve fall; so the point of the narrative is a way to help us understand how humanity had become 'infected' with the 'cancer' of sin. We're all sick, and this is why - but we're all responsible as our 'natural' inclination is rebellion against God; it's something we need to be saved from. When we turn to Christ we are counted as not guilty (or innoculated, to return to previous metaphor). It's not that we don't display symptoms, it's that the diesase is on the way out.
2) How do we know Jesus lived a sinless life? Because if he didn't, then we couldn't be saved. As the early theologians used to say - 'the unassumed is the unhealed'. Only the perfect can pay the ultimate price.
3) Original sin is useful as the starting point for one of the few good theological jokes...
"Definition of original sin? Poking a badger with a spoon".

(It's both a sin - it's cruel - and you have to admit it's original).


jojo said...

Listen to what Paul had to say on this issue. In Romans 5:12-21 he says, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned---for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the tresspass. For if the many died by the tresspass of one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of one man's sin: The judgement followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many tresspasses and brought justification. For if, by the tresspass of one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one tresspass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. The law was added so that the tresspass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
To say you do not believe Adam actually existed, or that "original sin" is not true doctrine, or that possibly someone other than Christ can be sinless, then you are refuting what the Apostle Paul is saying. Read through Romans and take up your questions with him.

Ricky Carvel said...

I'm not refuting what Paul had to say. But I am questioning it!

Paul never met Adam. How did he know Adam really existed? By trusting Genesis as being accurate history. Something I am not comfortable in doing...

And I have so many other issues with what Paul teaches too - but that's discussions for the future.


jojo said...

OK Ricky, so you're not refuting Paul. I'll give you that much. You know, when I question the ideas or proposals of my superiors at work, they don't give me such latitude. I know they see it at least a little bit as refuting their directives. So, may I say that at least you are refuting Paul just a bit? You've said, "Paul never met Adam. How did he know Adam really existed? By trusting Genesis as being accurate history. Something I am not comfortable in doing..." Hold on a you see the logical conclusion of your assertion here? We have never met the founding fathers of our respective countries, yet we accept recorded history as it is written (at least to a large degree). Or, neither of us has met our great, great, great grandfathers, yet we believe they existed because someone has told us a "story" or two about them. Deeper still, we have not seen Christ face to face, yet we say we are Christians, or that we "know" him. How can this be? How can we be comfortable with what our own people tell us about family history, or with what our history teachers taught us? May I submit to you that Paul is no more guilty than we are in this respect? The key here is this: if we think we can trust Christ for salvation, (even though we never met him), then why should we not think we can trust not only what he taught, but those through whom his teaching is perpetuated, namely, the apostles who died for his cause?

david said...

Jojo - It doesn't follow that my belief that my g-g-g-gfather traveled to Jupiter and back could somehow make Biblical narratives true. Even if he DID it doesn't make them true... nor if he didn't.

I can know that my g-g-g-gfather EXISTED b/c there is no other known way I could be here today. However, his character or exploits I cannot know in the same way, and it might be reasonable for me to be skeptical about some claims.

Maybe what you mean is that if I were *capable* of believing my g-g-g-gfather traveled to Jupiter, then I would be *capable* of believing many other things that others might doubt.

Additionally, there IS debate surrounding the "founding fathers", but there's not reasonable doubt that men established our countries (as opposed to aliens or angels).