Chapter 4 in Blake Ostler’s new book is called “The Implausibility of Original Sin”. That’s a nice way of saying “The doctrine of original sin is a total crock and here is why”.
I have to admit that as a Mormon this chapter wasn’t all that thrilling to me. We have rejected original sin from the start after all:
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
(Articles of Faith 1:2)
But I did find it interesting to see how our rejection of original sin sets Mormon theology and doctrines apart from many creedal Christians from the get-go. Blake writes:
The doctrine of original sin is as puzzling as it is entrenched in current conventional Christian thought. Even though the doctrine of original sin is scarcely mentioned at all during the first three centuries of Christian writings, it became a key doctrine at the core of “Christian” thought due largely to the influence of Augustine. (119)
On original sin, Theopedia says:
Original sin is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind’s first parents to the revealed will of God.
Ostler thinks the two primary reasons the doctrine of original sin has flourished are 1) People misread Paul’s writings, and 2) It helps explain the perplexing question of why we all inevitably sin. He spends the remainder of this chapter going into detail of why the doctrine of original sin is simply false. Since I assume most of my readers are Mormons I’ll avoid going into great detail on that (buy the book and read yourself!). I will mention that one argument against original sin is the fact that one person cannot be held morally accountable for the acts of another person. If my father steals, I cannot be held morally culpable for that theft. Over the centuries creedal theologians have tried to come up with sophisticated reasons why we can be morally responsible for the acts of a progenitor but Ostler spends time debunking these arguments. Another interesting problem arising from the doctrine of original sin that Ostler brings up is that it becomes a convenient excuse at times. Instead of saying “the Devil made me do it” we get to say “Adam and Eve made me do it”.
What do you think? Are there pros or cons of the doctrine of original sin that stand out to you? As someone somewhat sympathetic to Arminianism or even moreso to Pelagianism I find the appeal of such a doctrine totally baffling.