Original Sin

adam-eveJesus Christ has revealed the loving kindness of God and the truth about man. As infinite God, He offered to His Father a sacrifice of infinite love, in order to redeem the human race. As a man, Christ exercised pure piety and religion; He submitted Himself completely to the governance of the Almighty. He lived the life of a sinless Adam, to found the human race anew.

In other words, Jesus Christ is the unique light that shines in history, to illuminate the mysteries of human life. Because we can see in Christ the truth about God and man, we can also, by that same light, see the human race as it truly is: A creation of God, destined for glory, which fell away from goodness at the very beginning and remains trapped in a web of destruction and evil.

The Fall. Original Sin. It’s not just a “concept.” It is a historical reality. But at the same time: something so ancient and intimate, that we need to perceive Christ first, in order to even begin to understand “original sin.”

Two ideas about original sin that are not true:

1. When Adam and Eve fell, they started human sin by giving bad example. Original sin involves freely choosing to follow the bad example of the original sinner.

No. Original sin is deeper than this. Original sin has compromised us in our very nature. No one can do good without God’s help.

2. When Adam and Eve fell, they corrupted human nature so profoundly that we are no longer truly free at all. We are nothing more than a jumbled mess of appetites. Our inclination to selfishness is so profound that we cannot rightly aspire to holiness. Instead, we must hope only that God will exercise a kind of mercy that simply does not pay attention to our incurable immorality.

No. Original sin wounded our natural inclination to God, but it did not destroy it. Christ’s grace does not substitute for, or cover over, our hopelessly corrupted human nature; Christ’s grace heals our human nature. God made us to be holy as He is holy, and we can be, by the grace of Christ.

The Fall, the Hope, and Lent

adam-eveOnce every three years, we read the account of the Fall of Man at Sunday Mass. Good way to begin Lent. Good reminder that somewhere in the murky past, we human beings had at least a moment during which we enjoyed a better life, a life without all the struggles we now have.

We weren’t always this way. We did not always lurch through our experiences in such a Homer-Simpson-like manner. Our hearts did not always start fluttering whenever we see a frozen yogurt machine or a chocolate-chip cookie. We did not always have such a hard time concentrating on lessons worth learning, while meanwhile having such an easy time concentrating on why so-and-so should have spoken to me before speaking to that other person—how dare he snub me! We did not always pay so much attention to what other people see, while ignoring the Lord Who sees everything.

We would still live in that paradise, in that peaceful Garden of a bigger, better life—if only we human beings did not have such a hopeless penchant for letting our false pride get flattered.

“Oh, okay, Mr. Serpent. You’re saying we human beings actually know better than God? Really? Well, we wouldn’t necessarily have thought so. But if you say so…”

homerFalse pride. True pride would have said to the serpent: “Wait a minute. God made us. He loves us. He has the best plan. Maybe we don’t understand His rules perfectly. But we will. All will come clear in the end. In the meantime, we trust our heavenly Father to provide.”

But: Since we human beings occupy such an exalted state in the material cosmos, we have the tendency to confuse ourselves with God. Satan preyed on this tendency of ours. He tricked us into doubting the heavenly Father’s Providence. And we fell.

A question: We know from experience what it’s like to live now, after the Fall of Man. But how could we possibly know anything about what human life would have been like before the Fall? How can we say what kind of life Adam and Eve had, before they ate the fateful apple?

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