Do You Have to Believe in Original Sin to be a Christian?

Jason Micheli —  July 16, 2015 — 4 Comments

Untitled101111I’ve been working on writing a catechism, a distillation of the faith into concise questions and answers with brief supporting scriptures that could be the starting point for a conversation.

Cancer has gotten me off writing these for a few months now but, back by semi-popular demand, I hope to get back in the swing of things.

You can find the previous posts here.

III. The Son

13. Do You Have to Believe in Original Sin to be a Christian?

Of course.

We can’t intelligibly consider ourselves Christian and not believe in original sin.

Of course, by calling it ‘original sin’ we do not refer to the origin of humanity- as though we believed Adam was a real, historical person or as though we failed to realize that mythology was the methodology of the first authors of scripture.

Instead by calling it original sin we name the sin in which we are all implicated, by which we are impaired from our very beginnings as creatures and from which we could not hope to be immune even were we raised by angels.

In other words, the term original sin characterizes the sinfulness we have by virtue of being persons in the world.

From the start.

Making sin not so much something we do but, firstly, something we are all in.

Original sin, then, points not to something chronological or biological but existenstial; that is, the human condition within which we come into being but also the precondition for our individual sinful acts and choices and they damage they incur.

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

– Romans 3.10

14. Do We Believe in a Literal, Historical Date for Original Sin?


Christians call it Good Friday.

For if ‘sin’ refers to our deprivation of the divine life through our rejection of God’s love and goodness then- obviously- the occasion sin on which original was committed was the crucifixion of Jesus.

Good Friday marks the occasion of original sin not in the sense that sin did not exist prior to the incarnation but in the sense that sin had no meaning before it.

The crucifixion of Jesus finally gave meaning to what we mean by the word ‘sin.’ The crucifixion of Christ is not just another of humanity revealing its inhumanity; the cruficixion is humanity making the most ultimate sort of rejection and, in doing so, rejecting itself.

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

– Ephesians 4.18

Jason Micheli


4 responses to Do You Have to Believe in Original Sin to be a Christian?

  1. Kendall Soulen July 16, 2015 at 7:46 PM

    Terrific, Jason. You’re spot on – Good Friday is the revelation and reality of original sin.

  2. “In other words, the term original sin characterizes the sinfulness we have by virtue of being persons in the world. From the start.”

    I guess I would like some clarification on this point. It sounds to me as you are collapsing together finitude, which is a natural part of our human existence and part of God’s good creation, and fallenness, which is the deprivation of the good in God’s creation.

    Yes, the Garden of Eden story is myth (or saga, or whatever) but that story does not make sin seem to be a precondition of being a created being, but an invader in some sense; only when we attempt to transgress the bounds of our finitude do we become fallen.

    Don’t know if that concern makes any sense to you but I’m interested to hear your reaction/thoughts.

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