Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Original Sin

I think that the Protestant view of the "fall" is much more destructive of human nature than the Catholic view. My understanding is that the Protestant view of the fallen nature is an intrinsically CHANGED human nature in the literal sense.

Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches that the human nature remained the same, but the preternatural gifts and supernatural gifts were removed. In otherwords, Adam's human nature was just like all of humanity (we inherited from him), except that his nature before the fall was supercharged with supernatural and preternatural catalysts (gifts) that intrinsically elevated his human nature. After the fall, the catalyst was removed. In this sense, human nature was intrinsically changed (due to the lack of divine catalysts). The nature is said to be damaged, but strictly speaking, it is the same nature as it was before, but without the supernatural catalyst (grace), it is a fallen nature (as opposed to a once elevated nature), it is a concupiscient nature, also called a sinful nature. Apart from a supernatural intervention from God, it is this fallen nature that all the descendents of Adam inherit naturally.

Catholicism teaches that this sinful nature can still desire the good, but it is rather unlikely without the gift of grace. This is in stark contrast to the Lutheran and Calvinist view of "total depravity." Catholics would say depraved, yes, but not totally depraved. God creates every human nature. God only creates good. Without the help of supernatural gifts, our (good) natural gifts are at a disadvantage in dealing with the temptations of Satan. In otherwords, without grace our human selfishness is bound to result in personal sin.

The notion of original sin is simply the assertion that natural generation (simply being born) does not produce Original Justice (sanctification). One must be born again.


Blogger Wray Davis said...

I'm glad to hear that the Catholic position on original sin does not extend to total depravity. That was the basis of the most distressing part of Christianity to me, and part of what drove me from the Church.

I do think, though, that total depravity is pretty well supported by Paul, if you take any of the translations I've read literally.

I'm not particularly fond of Paul's stance on Christianity, but I think he fits within Catholic Christianity.

8:55 PM  
Blogger itsjustdave1988 said...


I believe that Paul's stance on Christianity is also God's own, and is quite Catholic ;)

Since every Word of Sacred Scripture is Divinely inspired, they have God as the real author. Yet, what God's Word affirms and teaches is not the same as every private notion of what God's Word teaches. It is the Church that is the "pillar and foundation of truth" (1 Ti 3:15). According to Sacred Scripture, the inspired declaration of Divine will and purpose is not a matter of private interpretation. (cf. 2 Pet 1:20)

Yet, our reflections upon Scripture speak to us personally. Our personal fallible interpretation, while in no way binding upon Christianity as definitive doctrine, is worth offering up for contemplation by the Church, as Christ's final arbiter of truth. Consider Paul's view of the errors of the "circumcision party" who "came from James" (Gal 2:12), who was the Bishop of Jerusalem. Even Paul's dispute with James' circumcision party was offered up to the Church for their councilar decision as the true "pillar" fo truth and arbiter of Christian doctrine and practice. (cf. Acts 15)

As for "total depravity", it seems Paul taught that even the pagan Romans could "do instinctively what the law requires" (Rom 2:12), and by doing so, show that "what the law requires is written on their hearts." (Rom 2:15). These pagans could indeed, according to Paul, "bear witness", their thoughts can either "accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when ... God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all." (Rom 2:15-16).

11:07 AM  
Blogger Wray Davis said...

Yet in the next chapter, Paul writes:

" 10 as it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one;

11 There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God;

12 They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not, so much as one: "

I think the passage you quote above indicates that much is required from those to whom much is given, and less from those who receive less. In any case, per the third chapter, none have ever measured up. (Though Paul may be forgetting about Enoch, who apparently was blameless before the Lord.)

8:25 PM  
Blogger itsjustdave1988 said...


You said:
"per the third chapter, none have ever measured up. (Though Paul may be forgetting about Enoch, who apparently was blameless before the Lord.)"

Hmmmm... I doubt Paul has forgotten about Enoch, or any of the other good and righteous people of the OT. Instead, I believe you are taking him literally when you ought to understand that he is using an idiomatic expression, a hyperbole.

Consider the statement "All have sinned." The word "all" (Greek 'pas') can have different meanings (as it does in English). It can mean literally "every single one" in some places, and it can mean something less than "absolutely every" elsewhere in Scripture.

For example, Paul writes that "all Israel will be saved," (Rom 11:26), but we know that many will not be saved. And in Rom 15:14, Paul describes members of the Roman church as "filled with all knowledge" (cf. 1 Cor 1:5), which clearly cannot be taken literally.

From Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Abridged Ed.) states: "Pas can have different meanings according to its different uses . . . in many verses, pas is used in the NT simply to denote a great number, e.g., "all Jerusalem" in Mt 2:3 and "all the sick" in 4:24. {pp.796-7}"

Likewise, Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words tells us "pas" can mean "every kind or variety." {v.1, p.46, under "All"}.

Paul re-states what the Psalmist of the OT lamented: "there is no one who does good [Hebrew, tob] no not one." Yet, Scripture speaks of some who are good, some who are innocent. It is more likely that Paul's lament is an indignant hyperbole and not intended to be taken as literally, as was the Psalmists lament. This is common to Jewish poetic idiom, like the kind we see throughout the Psalms.

Psalm 112:5 refers to a good man (Heb. tob), as does the book of Proverbs repeatedly (11:23, 12:2, 13:22, 14:14,19), using the same word, tob, which appears in Ps 14:2-3. And references to righteous men are plentiful (e.g., Job 17:9, 22:19, Ps 5:12, 32:11, 34:15, 37:16,32, Mt 9:13, 13:17, 25:37,46, Rom 5:19, Heb 11:4, Jas 5;16, 1 pet 3:12, 4:18, etc., etc.).

God bless,


9:09 PM  
Blogger Wray Davis said...

Shoot. I drafted a reply, but I think I forgot to actually post it.

The gist of it was:

Thanks for the excellent reply! I really appreciate the cross-referencing of the Greek there; I think it's very informative.

I agree that the Psalmist was using hyperbole and probably did not mean for his lamentations to be taken literally; however, I think Paul does. Those quotes are the foundation of an argument that peaks in verses 23 and 27-28 (all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is through faith that we are justified).

I don't know of any other passages that state this so explicitly, and perhaps another translation would undermine this understanding - I've been using the New American Standard and King James; what is the approved English Catholic translation?

After I'd posted that I went through the passages you'd listed above, and it seems to me they refer to a righteous man as one who is right with God, not necessarily one who is blameless (as Paul or King David was righteous, but not without sin). I don't think they can be used as examples of the possibility of a sinless life.

Thanks again for the response!

6:25 PM  
Blogger itsjustdave1988 said...


You said:
"I agree that the Psalmist was using hyperbole and probably did not mean for his lamentations to be taken literally; however, I think Paul does."

I think Paul was a well-educated Pharisee who was quoting the OT in the same Jewish idiomatic way that the Psalmist intended his lament. Otherwise, he would be contradicting the OT, and I don't suppose that was his intent.

You said:
"Those quotes are the foundation of an argument that peaks in verses 23 and 27-28 (all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and it is through faith that we are justified)."

I agree with Paul's argument. He is comparing the Gentiles to the Jews. He is saying that all, Jew and Gentile alike have sinned, and as such, Jew and Gentile alike need the grace of Christ for their Salvation. I disagree that Paul's use of the Grk "pas" meant every individual person has committed sin. Paul was no doubt familiar with Scripture which tells us that, for example, Caleb had "unreservedly followed the Lord" (Num 32:12) and had "complete fidelity to the Lord" (Deut 1:36).

12:46 PM  
Blogger itsjustdave1988 said...


"what is the approved English Catholic translation?"

The Revised Stantard Version (RSV) is the first version approved by Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, I believe. They make a "Catholic edition" which includes the deuterocanonicals. ;)

The New American Bible (NAB) is the translation used in the Catholic liturgy in the U.S. It attempts to be "ecumencal." It is an effort of a group of both Catholic and non-Catholic scholars.

The Douay-Rhiems is the oldest English translation approved by the Catholic Church, predating even the original KJV.

12:56 PM  

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