Original Sin, oh dear

I just read this in the Texas Episcopalian:

“Does the Episcopal Church believe in original sin?” a woman once asked Albert Mollegen, a professor at our seminary in Virginia. “Believe in it?” Molly replied; “why, madam, we practice it daily.”

Original sin is one of the hot debate topics at the aforementioned seminary. Both sides have points. One says that God created as very good, and that therefore original sin is bogus. Plus, they say, our knowledge of biology far surpasses what the ancients knew, and therefore this whole original sin is just malarky.

On the other hand, proponents of original sin ask us not only to look scriptures (especially Paul) to find evidence for original sin. What is more, they say, look at the world, look at yourself, of course we’re sinful.

I have a slightly nuanced perspective. Original sin has an unfortunate title. Many moderns disregard this doctrine of the faith because “original” for them means the sin committed by Adam and Even and passed on through their progeny to us.

Now come on, that’s just making a caricature of it.

I say that we are born into this world with structures, with a society, that means that cannot not sin. It’s just impossible to rise out of this system of turning away from God. I mean, have you looked at the greed inherent in our economy today. Need I say more?

But, of course, there is one more nuance. As Martin Luther, this original sin does not come to us by works. No, this sinfulness is entirely alien from our nature. But because of this corrupted world, where it is easy to choose the wrong, original sin implants itself upon us.

Only by Christ’s divine initiative can we ever hope to be set free from this damnable (I mean this is the most literal sense) state. It is because Christ does not will this state for us. And indeed, Christ is powerful enough to set us free from this state. The act of worship and prayer is acknowledging and giving thanks for this divine salvation.

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