Tuesday, December 1, 2020

What is Original Sin and why does it matter?

The doctrine of original sin is absolutely essential to any understanding of the Christian faith. If one is not aware of the problem, that of our need for a savior because of sin, then one cannot properly understand the solution, which is Jesus Christ, the God-man who washes away our sin by suffering in our place on the cross, and rising to life to give us eternal life.  

The doctrine of original sin was a key tenant of Augustinian theology, all the way back to the times of the early church. He after all understood sin quite well, because of his youthful journeys of constant sin and lust and self-destructive behavior.  The more we understand sin as Christians, and how terrible sin truly is, and how it has destroyed people and the world, the more we are driven to the love of Jesus Christ, and the amazing gift of Christ's substitutionary atonement on the cross. 

Augustine's view of original sin is important, in fact it must form the basis for the Calvinist view of total depravity, that man can make no approach to God, and God must awaken the fallen nature for any approach to be made to God.  Original sin, which begins in the garden, certainly affects every person, from birth, any person questioning this ought simply spend time with an angry toddler who cries out: "Mine, mine, mine!" Essentially, the doctrine of original sin is near as vital as the cross of Christ, which makes it extremely important.

Yet we also have to reflect on the inherent worth of every human being. Imago Dei is extremely important to Augustine because Augustine sees an ability to understand the Trinity through examining the Imago Dei within ourselves. The Imago Dei within us helps us to understand the mysteries of the Trinity, and similarly the Trinity helps us to understand the Imago Dei within ourselves.  Essentially, it's important to Augustine because the Imago Dei and the Trinity reveal one another. The Imago Dei is a balance to the reality of original sin, in that original sin condemns us, but the Imago Dei indicates conversely our incredibly worth in the eyes of God. Thus, we are, as beings made in the image of God, worth Jesus Christ coming on a rescue mission for, to save us.

The doctrine of the image of God is certainly important in our day and age.  It can be minimized too much, in which we reject any connection to God in likeness to God. One might think of "worm theology."  It can also be over-emphasized or more so distorted, like in new age beliefs, where the person is essentially deified to not simply be "like god" but to "be god."  For Christians, we debate whether the imago dei is primarily about intellect, or relationship, or an eternal nature, but it remains vitally important as we consider who we are as humans in relationship to God. When we consider original sin, we should recall that though we are miserably lost, we are also of great value in the eyes of God.