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Christian's belief of the fall of humanity begins with the devil or serpent seducing Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed Gods command, Humans forever lost the blessings of God. Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden of Eden. Once outside the presence of God, Humans became victims of death, disease, and hardship. Man's sin ultimately ruined the harmony of our relationship with God. Through the fall of humanity God's plan for us was destroyed and as a result of Adam's sin, succeeding generations have been forced to abide in a fallen world. Two great theologians, Irenaeus and Augustine, have pressed on the topic of the fall of humanity throughout their writings. Through the following paragraphs I will compare and contrast the separate theories made by these theologians, and decide for myself which version best fits my beliefs with Genesis 1-3, as well as my understanding of the origin of human life.
Although they disagree on many details of the fall, Irenaeus and Augustine do agree on a few broad ideas that stem back to the fall of humanity. First, they both agree that evil can be traced back to free will. Without God's gift of free will, humans would obviously have no choice on what decisions they made. However, because God wanted his creation to choose to worship him, he gave us the gift of free will. Through this gift Adam and Eve made the decision in the Garden to disobey God's command. Secondly, they both agree that, humans, through our freedom to blatantly violate God's commands cause suffering. Simply put, When humans sin we are impairing our relationship with God, as well as causing strife in our own lives.
Given that Irenaeus and Augustine only agree on a pair of ideas for the fall, this must indicate that they disagree on many. For Irenaeus, he did not completely agree with doctrine of original sin. According to him, Adams fall symbolized humanity's inability to ascend to a perfected state, (of which the angels had acquired) not a loss to hold onto perfection, as Augustine would argue. Irenaeus also believed that without the presence of death and worldly evils there would be no reason for repentance. Perhaps his most criticized idea though, is that evil was created by God for humans, so that humans might come to know his love for us, and freely decide to accept it. Augustine argued that as a result of Adam's sin, sin entered the world, and because sin has entered the world the rest of humanity will contain an original sin. Augustine believes that this sin is present in all humans, and that we all are in need of salvation. Irenaeus states that by choosing to do what is right, we can ultimately break the habit of sinning that we have acquired from an early age. By breaking this habit we will be restored to our original "image of God". To many Christians this idea expels on a works-based salvation. Augustine would argue that we can do nothing to obtain the image of God, we are ultimately deserving of damnation, regardless of how we live our lives. He expounds on Gods grace as a way of elevating human behavior, and the only way to salvation, by it and only it we are restored. With restoration comes unification with God. For Irenaeus, as humans slowly progress we are able to grow closer to God, constantly reducing the distance that we have created between us and God. Augustine argues that point by stating that God is in a state of remoteness from us because of our sin. Presumably, because of the fall, Augustine believes that Adams descendents have now acquired morality, the inability to do good, and lack of knowledge pertaining to God, versus our original state of immorality, the ability to not sin, and perfected freedom.
As for which author's text best reflects the first three chapters of Genesis, I most certainly agree with Augustine for a number of reasons. First and foremost, when studying Irenaeus his reasons for the fall and the presence of evil in the world tend to leave many people confused with many unanswered questions, particularly because the majority of his ideas have no scriptural backing. For Augustine, the doctrine of original sin, through the fall of humanity is clearly stated in Genesis 1-3, his doctrine of original sin is supported through numerous biblical references, both old and New Testament passages state that because of Adam's sin, we have all been separated from God.
Because scripture tells us that to the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day, we can assume that God is "outside of time" at least to the human perspective. When discussing the origin of the world and human life we know that God took six days to create it, so does this mean literally in six calendar days the world as we know it was created? I believe not. This process of six days could've taken millions or billions of years, as I stated earlier God is outside of time. Although Irenaeus version of progressive human behavior could be easily explained and adapted into evolutionary terms, this does not change the fact that his version has no scriptural backing. I believe that Augustine's version of the departure of the first humans from the garden is still very relevant when discussing and understanding the origin of life.
Augustine's doctrine of original sin can be defined as the defect all humans inherited from Adam's sin. It is a sin that every human posses as a consequence for Adam's disobedience in the Garden. Augustine believes that Adam and Eve were created perfect with no desire to do evil or disobey God; he argues that Adam would have never disobeyed God if Satan, in the form of a serpent, hadn't targeted his human senses. Augustine states that through Christ, humans now have the capability to overcome sin and death, and to spend eternity with God in Heaven. However, popular protestant belief is that through Jesus death and resurrection humans have been forever freed of the burden of original sin. The apostle Paul states in Romans 5:12 "sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death came to all men, because all have sinned-". Through this scripture we can identify Adam as the man who brought sin into the world. Another way that Augustine teaches his idea of original sin is through human sexuality and reproduction. He argues that for any child to be born an act of sin must occur; this sin is found in the presence of sex. Since sex is linked to lustful desires and selfish motives, through those sinful acts we procreate, thus concluding that every person is a result of a sinful act. While this idea supports corruption through reproduction, there are others whom believe that original sin is transmitted through social interaction, simply put, because Adam began the habit of sinning, it has been passed down to us through generations of sinfulness. Although the doctrine of original sin is difficult to completely understand, especially when the topic of new born babies presents itself, it was adopted as credible belief by numerous councils, along with successful protestant reformers such as Calvin and Luther.
Through scripture, church practice, and theological argument Augustine is able to support his teachings on original sin. For centuries church practice has been shaped and built on the doctrine of original sin. We know that by the third century the church had adopted several beliefs concerning original sin. First being that, through the act of sexual reproduction Adam's sin was passed down to the newborn. Secondly, newborns were to be baptized as soon as possible for the forgiveness of original sin. Along the lines of baptism, the early church believed that through baptism God's grace and love is presented to us in the form of the Holy Spirit and that it is necessary for salvation. Original sin's basis is established both in the New and Old Testament scripture. To properly evaluate what scripture says about original sin we will need to focus primarily on Genesis and the writings of the Apostle Paul. Through Genesis we know the story of the fall, and the elements of the original sin. Though the sin we know that harmony with the world was broken, and that God sentenced Adam and all of his descendants to life outside the garden, filled with hardship, strife, pain, and ultimately death. The Apostle Paul elaborates much more on the existence of original sin in the New Testament letters. In Romans 5:12-22 he writes to the church in Rome stating that:
"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-13for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.14Nevertheless, 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."
Paul is clearly stating that because of Adam's sin, death, or sin has come to all men, he states that even those who did not break a command still sinned. This is a clear illustration of scripture supporting original sin. Again in his first letter to the church of Corinth Paul states in 1 Corinthians 5:12 that:
"For as in Adam all die, s in Christ all will be made alive."
In the case for theological argument, Augustine believed that through grace humanity can be spiritually inclined to pursue a pure relationship with God; he teaches that purity is impossible for a human to achieve. He also stated that because of God's perfect knowledge of human choice, he knows who will choose to pursue him; therefore since God knows who will be saved and who will not be, it is impossible for someone who is destined to be saved to be lost. Perhaps his most creditable critic on the doctrine is Pelagius believes that Adam's sin did not have any effect on the souls of humanity, but only through a sinful life did he influence his descendants. Pelagius believed that every person has the ability to stop sinning if he chooses to do so. However, Pelagius' teaching contradicts numerous passages in scripture that directly state that Humans are forever slaves to their sinful nature, and it is only by grace that God chooses us.
According to the Apostle Paul, original sin is evident and something every believer should take seriously. I do agree with Augustine's position on original sin. However, the debate that continuously arises over his doctrine is the eternal destination for infants who have yet to be baptized. We know through the scripture that God is sovereign and merciful when it comes to His judgment of His people:
Romans 9:15: For He says to Moses," I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will show compassion on whom I show compassion."
Because I believe that God is all knowing, and loves his children relentlessly, when asked where do I think infants spend eternity who haven't been baptized. My response is simple, "I don't know, but whatever God decides is right". By thinking that you somehow know better than God on the subject of what to do with those infants is comparing your knowledge and reasoning to Gods. This cannot be.
Over the centuries, Augustine's doctrine of original sin has helped shape and structure church practice as we know it today. Through studying scripture, church practice, and theological argument Augustine was able to produce a very well-rounded insightful doctrine, that not only emphasis our need for God's grace, but eventually His only Son.