Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Greg P

15 Reasons Why I Left Church

99 posts in this topic

What we need is to rediscover the old Christianity, something that American Christianity is scarcely aware of...

Which "Old" Christianity are you referring to?

All of it, good and bad. These days, American Christianity seems scarcely aware of the history of the Reformation, much less its background before that. Any healthy formulation of Christianity will continually grapple with its origins and development throughout the centuries, not because the origin represents doctrinal purity--indeed, there was a lot of doctrinal confusion in those days, as there is now, and there were many awful betrayals of the Gospel, as there are now--but because they were the carriers of Christ to us. We have received what we have now only because of those who have gone before us, and because they were the vessels that carried the Gospel, they deserve our respect and consideration. The Body of Christ not only spans place, but time.

You and I have come to different conclusions about solutions and what we are looking for in a faith community, but I read a similar lament: we have ceased to identify with most of the distinctives of American Protestantism and/or Evangelicalism.

I'll take it a step further-- as did Rachel in the original link-- and say, I find Evangelicalism nigh insufferable, and I resent being put on the defensive about my conviction by those in her ranks, as if my decision to leave was a rash decision or really about sin, selfishness or some covert personal backsliding. I have intellectual, spiritual/theological reasons for my departure, but they take a back seat to this: I still have some semblance of self-respect and dignity.

As Andy pointed out, for those who love Jesus of Nazareth, the step away from Protestantism leaves you with basically two alternatives: Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. As someone raised in the Greek Orthodox Church and who agrees with much in that tradition, I have no real interest to return. I find services novel and occasionally fascinating, but I don't truly identify with it. The only Church I've attended in the past two years has been Catholic and I've gone only because a good friend is very involved in ministry there. I've been to several dry-as-bones services where I teetered on the brink of coma and one odd-ball service where I wept like a baby because it was so beautiful. Go figure. My friend continues to proselytize me at every burger-n-beer we share, but I am vehemently opposed to so much in Catholicism I know no matter how wonderful an individual church service may be, I have massive ideological disagreements with it that will forever keep me from calling it home.

Move to Ohio?

I don't know, Greg. There are also 47,287 (and counting) different flavors of Protestantism, and that's both its weakness and strength. As important as doctrinal issues are, what it comes down to for me is this: I want to be involved in a church where people love each other, love Jesus, and love and welcome sinners, both inside and outside the church, of every stripe and persuasion. Since I presumably have to show up at this hypothetical church, I'd like to see that kind of love and grace extended to me, and, by extension, to everyone else. If you're not sure you believe in Jesus, if your theological framework consists of nothing but doubts and questions, that's fine. You're welcome anyway. You'll hear the same teachings and be involved in the same discussions as me. If you're ashamed of much of your past life, and wish you could undo months, years, maybe decades, welcome to the club. Me too. Come on in. If you're willing to be challenged, to consider the notion of becoming a better, more whole person through following Jesus, and befriending a bunch of other people in the same boat, and serving the people in our culture who are marginalized, ignored, and shunned, some of whom are here and some of whom don't yet know about Jesus, then please show up. We'll welcome you.

These churches do exist. I'm a part of one of them. Like every church, people come and go. Some people leave because the pastor won't tell them how to vote. Other people want more formal programs. There are probably hundreds of reasons to leave. And that's okay. We encourage those folks to check out one of the other 47,286 options. Or the Catholic Church. Or the Orthodox Church. It's all good, or at least it can be. People have to find home. I would just encourage you to keep looking for home. Figure out what's negotiable (because you're not going to find a perfect church) and what's not negotiable, and learn to live with the distasteful but negotiable beliefs and practices. In that sense, I completely agree with Christian's comments earlier in this discussion. It's better to be involved in an imperfect church than no church at all.

For what it's worth, I grew up in the Catholic Church, lived 8 years in a Christian Jesus Freak commune, spent seven years in a conservative evangelical denominational church, spent another seven years in a "liberal" mainline Protestant church, spent a couple years seriously courting Orthodoxy (the main issue: I'm not Greek, Russian, Slovenian, or Syrian, and never will be), and now find myself in a church that doesn't look much like any of them. I'm home, and I'm not going anywhere. But it took 28 years to find it, and some portion of those 28 years was spent kvetching and moaning. Don't get me wrong. There were good, godly people along every stop. But it wasn't home. And as much as I was told, insistently, time and again, that it was wrong to church shop, I still believed that it was possible to find home. Eventually I did. Don't give up.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Move to Ohio?

Heh. One move in the last couple weeks is enough for me, thanks!

There are technically many flavors of Protestantism, but they often seem like 47,287 variations on vanilla.

I'm really not that picky. Really! I don't care at all about the style of music-- none, would be preferable, but instrumental hymns are awesome and so is whirling, raging Hammond B3. I fully expect the music in most american churches to be the top 40, sing songy worship variety. That music sucks but I can endure it. I don't care if the pastor is a great speaker as long as he keeps it short and is well-read. Youth programs are not high on my priority list either because I want my kids to have a social circle in the neighborhood, school and community in which we live. I don't want Republican politics-- or any politics for that matter-- and I don't want a lot of flag waving. Dogma and historic considerations are frequently enriching, but not essential.

I'd like a place that encourages quiet prayer and contemplative practices, in earnest or a place that embraces the mystery of God like my Orthodox brethren. And maybe a place with people my own age. But I'm negotiable with those too. In fact I'm negotiable with all of the above.

Maybe the only essential thing is that I can be myself in a faith community... and be accepted. And that's why I stopped attending Evangelical services, in a nutshell. My sins: I embraced a homosexual couple who attended our church a few years ago and didn't try to convert them. I questioned some long standing traditions in the evangelical food court. I was known to drink alcohol-- in moderation of course-- but that didn't matter... spiritual people were expected to abstain from all appearance of evil, including R-Rated movies and secular music. And I could go on and on. It was hard to take a church seriously that was more concerned about teen christians masturbating in the shower than whether they were educated, critical thinkers who had a special place for the compassionate God of the Cosmos in their hearts.

The bottom line was that I had invested my life, my money and my energy into something that did not embrace me back. I expect that from the world, but not from a community of grace. Chip on my shoulder? Maybe. But deep down I want the same thing as everyone else-- to be embraced and accepted. I haven't given up finding that, but as the years go on I become increasingly skeptical.

Edited by Greg P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy Whitman said:

I don't know, Greg. There are also 47,287 (and counting) different flavors of Protestantism, and that's both its weakness and strength. As important as doctrinal issues are, what it comes down to for me is this: I want to be involved in a church where people love each other, love Jesus, and love and welcome sinners, both inside and outside the church, of every stripe and persuasion. Since I presumably have to show up at this hypothetical church, I'd like to see that kind of love and grace extended to me, and, by extension, to everyone else. If you're not sure you believe in Jesus, if your theological framework consists of nothing but doubts and questions, that's fine. You're welcome anyway. You'll hear the same teachings and be involved in the same discussions as me. If you're ashamed of much of your past life, and wish you could undo months, years, maybe decades, welcome to the club. Me too. Come on in. If you're willing to be challenged, to consider the notion of becoming a better, more whole person through following Jesus, and befriending a bunch of other people in the same boat, and serving the people in our culture who are marginalized, ignored, and shunned, some of whom are here and some of whom don't yet know about Jesus, then please show up. We'll welcome you.

Amen

Greg P said:

Maybe the only essential thing is that I can be myself in a faith community... and be accepted. And that's why I stopped attending Evangelical services, in a nutshell. My sins: I embraced a homosexual couple who attended our church a few years ago and didn't try to convert them. I questioned some long standing traditions in the evangelical food court. I was known to drink alcohol-- in moderation of course-- but that didn't matter... spiritual people were expected to abstain from all appearance of evil, including R-Rated movies and secular music. And I could go on and on. It was hard to take a church seriously that was more concerned about teen christians masturbating in the shower than whether they were educated, critical thinkers who had a special place for the compassionate God of the Cosmos in their hearts.

Amen

FWIW. I really sympathize with what you guys are saying.... and I think it's fitting with my thought for a follow up to Steven's post. I've come to a conviction that God is above all ..... compassionate and merciful, and therefore we are to live that way as well. For me this means not only accepting those who are not of the same mindset into our midst, but also in going out and wholeheartedly embracing them, because I think God's heart is full of compassion for them and he wants us to..... I'd venture to say deeply desires us to. I would think this could include having conversations with people about an R rated movie over a good beer. I once told one of the more conservative fellows in my church that it was easier to witness to someone when you were drunk, because then your inhibitions were down...... He didn't find that joke as funny as I did. 8O

But you see I grew up in a fairly good, salt of the earth type, churchgoing home and still have issues that I need to sort through (as does everybody if they are honest with themselves). I've come to the understanding that if I still have "stuff" how much more do some of the folks out there who have grown up in or been involved with, less savory enviroments..... or are dealing with mental illnesses, disease, bodies that don't function as well as they should.... ect. ect.

Some of the human ailments are wound in deep and are not easily fixed (althought God can do it). I lean more towards the Eastern understanding of Christianity and the church being a medicinal place where God sets the captives free. I truly believe the scriptures that say that Jesus came not to condemn the world, and that Christ came to set the captives free...... these both speak of compassion and mercy.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still not clear what you're driving at, Attica. I gather that the ideas of mercy and compassion are important to you. I'm pretty sure I've read about mercy and compassion in St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas too. I'm not sure what it is you feel crept into the Church, or was lost, in the time of Constantine and Augustine. Perhaps you could provide some specific examples?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm still not clear what you're driving at, Attica. I gather that the ideas of mercy and compassion are important to you. I'm pretty sure I've read about mercy and compassion in St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas too. I'm not sure what it is you feel crept into the Church, or was lost, in the time of Constantine and Augustine. Perhaps you could provide some specific examples?

Hi Steven.. I'm writing out some thoughts and quotes for you. I'll send them in a bit.

My beef is more with Augustine then Constantine. I think that he really threw the church for a loop. I'm not discounting that Augustine believed in compassion, because he clearly believed that God's grace was towards him.... but I do think that he was one of the main guys who muckied up some of our understanding of God's wrath, including what happened at the fall and its results. Don't get me wrong.... I do believe in God's wrath and judgment. I just don't think the early Christians would have had quite the same view of it's purposes, and how it functioned, as what can often be found in Christianity since Augustine.

Yes... mercy and compassion are very important to me.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Attica. I hope you're including citations from the writings of the pre-Augustinian fathers against the heretical views you ascribe to Augustine.

FWIW, my feeling is that anyone or anything as massively influential as Augustine is a target for criticism, both fairly and unfairly, and that any subject as complex, subtle, vast and formative as Augustine's thought is likely to be oversimplified both by its proponents and its critics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Attica. I hope you're including citations from the writings of the pre-Augustinian fathers against the heretical views you ascribe to Augustine.

FWIW, my feeling is that anyone or anything as massively influential as Augustine is a target for criticism, both fairly and unfairly, and that any subject as complex, subtle, vast and formative as Augustine's thought is likely to be oversimplified both by its proponents and its critics.

Yep. I am..... and it's probably to oversimplified ;)

Yeah. I kind of agree with you. For awhile I was really kind of ticked off with Augustine (actually I still kind of am... a little). But I've moved to viewing him through a bit different lense the more I've learned about him. Now I see him as being a bit of a tragic figure. Being that he had a pretty horrific past, and I don't think he ever really, truly, healed from it. We sometimes just look at these guys thoughts and writings, and forget about the complexities of their humanity (as well as their cultural context).

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If one takes M Scott Peck's "Four Stages of Spiritual Growth" to heart (and i have, recently), the move away from evangelicalism or more strict, organized church services, can be easily seen for what it is-- less of a backsliders taboo and more of an essential part of healthy, human development. I think this is the distinction I would add as a footnote to Rachel's blog post and our discussion here: many of us stop attending church because we are growing!!!

Why is that concept so anathema to those who believe in Christ?

I think from my teens till my late 20's or early 30's I was very entrenched in Stage 2, i.e. a course of spirituality characterized by the Formal, Institutional and Fundamental. During that period I was very involved in ministry and church services, attending 2-3 times a week and typically leading the services on at least one or more of those occasions. After this came a gentle breeze of questioning and searching... some disillusionment and skepticism, which ramped up in my mid-30's and included me formally stepping down from leadership at church and slowly discontinuing attendance at regular church services. I find myself at the tail end of Peck's Stage 3 now, in my early 40's. Still very skeptical of american religious meetings in many ways and also utterly convinced neither evangelicalism or Catholicism offer me anything by way of "membership". I have flirted with atheism.

And yet... I am moving somewhere different now. I find myself searching for Community -- albeit from a much different angle than when i was 18 years old. I'm not searching to join a movement or apply for church membership or lead anything. I find myself embracing some of the mystical qualities of Christianity anew. It's another phase and not an entirely comfortable one, I admit... but it's all part of growth. How that will play out in the fast food religious pop culture is totally unknown to me.

Edited by Greg P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If one takes M Scott Peck's "Four Stages of Spiritual Growth" to heart (and i have, recently), the move away from evangelicalism or more strict, organized church services, can be easily seen for what it is-- less of a backsliders taboo and more of an essential part of healthy, human development. I think this is the distinction I would add as a footnote to Rachel's blog post and our discussion here: many of us stop attending church because we are growing!!!

I fully agree. A couple of days ago I listened to a Podcast where Brian McLaren was interviewed about his newest book "Naked Spirituality". One of the things he touched on is that many Christian churches aren't much able to help the people in stage 3. They just aren't set up that way.

Of course his understanding of the four stages might be a little different than what you had linked to.

Link to podcast

FWIW I can relate to the stage three aspect of being an active truth seeker and re-assessing or taking a deeper look at my own belief system and why I see the world the way I do, but not at all the atheistic part (I did question that aspect 14 or 15 years ago). I also at times can relate with the mystical apsects of Shalom as seen in stage 4, and also the aspects of trancending cultures and understanding to connect with those outside Christianity for the sake of community. So I guess maybe I'm fluctuating between these last two stages.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I truly think that the early church (before Constantine and Augustine) believed in a much more loving, gentle and kindhearted, and less wrathful God than much of the current church does. I'm convinced that some of the stuff modern Christians say about God would have been crazy talk to them. As a matter of fact they wrote against some of these things as heresies. I've sometimes said to friends that their beliefs were different enough that either much of modern Christianity is wrong or they were. Me.... I'm going with their gentler more loving God.

Can you clarify what some of these post-Constantinian/Augustinian heresies of divine wrath might be?

Hi Steven.

Here's my response, complete with poor structure, and bad grammar. I apologize for it being so ridiculously long. B) Feel free to private message me if you'd like to comment off of the boards, being that this is a bit of a sidetrack. But not completely, I think. :)

From my understanding they probably would have had a problem with some (not all) of the current churches understanding of divine wrath being the idea that God gets "glory" from punitively punishing sin and evil, although I've never read any direct evidence that they would have found this heretical. Having said that, I'm pretty sure that they would have found that belief to be troubling, as do I. Of course this comes from an interpretation of Romans 9. I believe there is a sound interpretation of this text that aligns with a more loving, merciful God. But that's for another time.

A good book that touches on some of this with a deep study of God's judgement throughout the bible is this...... God's Glory in Salvation through Judgement

Also.. I'm not sure exactly what the early church would have thought of this, but I'm troubled by the notions found in some Christian circles that God has to judge sin because he is Holy. I mean really... really. How does that line up with Jesus and the adulteress where he says that those without sin should throw the first stone and then goes ands her to go and sin no more. If God had to judge sin because of his holiness wouldn't Jesus have had to have her stoned to death. Yet he showed her mercy instead.

Anyhow.... I digress. Of course this response is about what the early Christians had to say about judgement, and how Augustine differed. You had asked what they would have considered to be heresies. I believe they would have considered Augustine's doctrine of original sin, being linked to God's judgement of mankind at the fall, and it's results, to be heretical. As I've mentioned the Eastern branches, the Coptic, Celtic, Syrian, and Ethiopian Orthodox have rejected this. Also from my understanding the Roman church has moved away from a full Augustinian belief.

The Jewish tradition has also rejected this understanding, and they have lived with the story of the fall of Adam and Eve much longer than the Christian churches.

Rabbi Dr. J.H. Hertz, in his commentary on the Pentateuch and Haftorahs, on the topic of the "fall of man" writes: “Strange and somber doctrines have been built on this chapter of the Garden of Eden, such as the Christian doctrine of Original Sin. . . . Judaism rejects these doctrines. Man was mortal from the first, and death did not enter the world through the transgression of Eve. . . . There is no loss in the God-likeness of man, nor of man's ability to do right in the eyes of God; and no such loss has been transmitted to his latest descendants”.

I realize that what I'm saying is quite controversial here in Western Christianity though..... but bear with me, I'm not trying to be a jerk about it. In fact the opposite.... I believe a non Augustinian understanding leads to a God that's a pretty good guy. If folks like some of these new atheists heard more of the understanding I'm going to try and set forth (in which I'll link to early Christian writings), then I don't think they'd be so inclined to writing books like "God is not Good".

You see, the following is very different from what I used to believe. I was a good Evangelical kind of guy, and I remember at a Bible study teaching that Jesus was born of Holy Spirit and not man, in order that he could be born without a sin nature because it was through the father that original sin is passed. But ..... If Eve was the first to sin then shouldn't that mean that original sin would be passed through the woman's womb?

But anyhow. Here are some quotes from some of the more well known founding fathers to start showing what I'm getting at.

Justin Martyr wrote:

For it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first on meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And gain, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions.... Justine Martyr (c. 16o, E), 1. 177

Justin Martyr wrote

I have proved in what has been said that those who were fore-known to be unrighteous, whether men or angels, are not made wicked by God's fault. Rather each man is what he will appear to be through his own fault..... Justin Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.269

In and around 180 A.D. Irenaeus wrote:

"Therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness.... because it is in our power to do so".

"This expression.... sets forth the ancient law of human liberty. For God made man free from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the commandments of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God".

c (180) E/W. 1.518

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds"... And "Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?".......all such passages demonstrate the independent will of man".

(c.180, E/W), 1.519

In 210 Tertullian wrote.

"The corruption of our nature is another nature having a god and father of it's own - namely the author of corruption. Still, there is a portion of good in the soul of that original divine, and genuine good, which is it's proper nature. For that which is derived from God is obscured rather than extinguished. It can indeed be obscured because it is not God. However it cannot be extinguished because it comes from God..... Thus some men are very bad, and some are very good. And even in the best person, there is something bad... Just as no soul is without sin, so neither is any soul without seeds of good".

In 195 AD Clement of Alexandria wrote

"The Lord clearly shows sins and transgressions to be in our own power, by prescribing modes of cure corresponding to the maladies". ..... Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.363

" Neither praises nor censures, neither rewards nor punishments, are right if the soul does not have the power of inclination and disinclination and if evil is involuntary...... In no respect is God the author of evil. But since free choice and inclination originate sins,..... punishments are justly afflicted ..... Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.319

In 303 lacantius said.

Nobody can be born vicious. Instead if we make a bad use of the affections, they become vices. If we use them well, they become virtues. The Son clothed himself with flesh so that the desires of the flesh being subdued, he might teach us that to sin was not the result of necessity, but of man's purpose and will....... Lactantius (c. 304-131, W), 7.127

In 210 Tertullian wrote.

"Is not the doctrine of the Gnostics from the beginning and everywhere an invective against the flesh? According to them it is unclean against its first formation of the dregs of the ground. According to them (the Gnostics), it is worthless, weak, covered with guilt, laden with misery, full of trouble"...... Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.548

In and around 225 Origen wrote:

"Certain men who hold different opinions (i.e. heretics) misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation (choosing salvation)...... Origen (c.225, E), 4.308

"This is also clearly defined in the teaching of the church (meaning the church at large not just Origen), that every rational soul is possessed of free will and volition and that it has a struggle to maintain against the devil."...... Origen (c.225,E), 4.240

These are just a few quotes of the early fathers that I've taken from this book...... a Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. What I've written is far from exhaustive but I think it gives a fairly good sample of what the early Christians thought of God's judgement during the fall, and the resulting nature of mankind. It shows that they would have had different views than the Augustinian understanding of original sin, and human nature after the fall, which Christians in the west believe in to varying degrees, and would have disagreed with this view. Of course there are also a few quotes that touch on the idea of this kind of thought being heretical as being related to the Gnostics...... Don't be upset with me .... I didn't write these. But I think it's fairly safe to say that their main problem with Augustinian thought, which has influenced the church, would have been the idea that through original sin we are created evil, or with evil in us...... which of course is connected with how God's divine wrath functioned during the fall, and the idea that humanity is born with an inherited nature towards sin, resulting from the fall.

Here is a quote from St. Basil the Great's book "On the human condition"....(page 73)

"But living beings were created with the bodily faculties suited to them according to nature, and brought into life complete in their limbs and organs, but they became ill through a perversion of what is according to nature. For a disruption of health occurs either because of a bad lifestyle or because of some other cause of illness. Therefore, God created the body, but not illness; and likewise God created the soul but not sin. Rather, the soul is made evil through a perversion of what is according to nature. But what was the good set before the soul? It was the attentiveness to God and union with him through love. Once the soul has fallen away from this, it is made evil by various and manifold weaknesses. But for what reason is it entirely capable of receiving evil? Because of the impulse of free choice........ For having been freed from all necessity, and receiving self determined life from the Creator, because it came into being according to the image of God, it understand the Good and knows his joy and possesses authority and power, abiding in the contemplation of the beautiful and the enjoyment of spiritual things, guarding carefully in itself the life according to nature. Yet it also had authority to turn away from the beautiful at any time. And this happened to it when it received a satiety of blessed delights and was is it were weighed down by a kind of sleepiness and sank down from the things above...."

Here is a excerpt from the above mentioned book "A dictionary of early Christian beliefs".

In the following lengthy discussion of free will, Origen counters the arguments being made by certain Gnostics, who said that humans have a ruined nature because of being created by the inferior DemiUrge. These Gnostics taught that, as a result of these ruined natures, salvation was purely a matter of grace and election by the father of Jesus.

Yes... I know Origen had fallen out of favour with the church (although that is being restored as of the last half century).... but the early church was quite fine with him, even if they didn't agree with him on a couple of points (his ideas relating to a Christian form of reincarnation were a little nuts). Origen wasn't condemned until hundreds of years after his death..... and that council and condemnation is another discussion.

With the above quotes in mind.... some information from wikipedia (and we all know that wikipedia is never wrong). ;)

The Greek Fathers emphasized the cosmic dimension of the Fall, namely that since Adam human beings are born into a fallen world, but held fast to belief that man, though fallen, is free. It was in the West that precise definition of the doctrine arose.

Compare this with Augustine's understanding of original sin.

Having committed this particular sin human nature was henceforth transformed. Adam and Eve, via sexual reproduction, recreated human nature. Their descendants now live in sin, in the form of concupiscence which makes the original sin pass from parents to children, is not a libido actualis, i.e. sexual lust, but libido habitualis, i.e. a wound of the whole of human nature. Augustine's view (termed "Realism"), all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace. Grace is irresistible results in conversion, and leads to perseverance

Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin equated original sin with concupiscence, affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom.

So, Augustinian thought has made it's way, to varying degrees, into most of Western Christianity.... Both Luther and Calvin were strongly influenced by it. But really, if we have inherited a sin nature, isn't that saying that there is some sort of evil inherent in humanity, otherwise how would we have this inclination to do evil.

The following is taken from the book.... Sin and Fear: the emergence of a Western Guilt Culture.

The doctrine of original sin had such a profound impact that "all future theological reflection on this problem in the Christian West was geared toward it, whether to lighten it (as with Aquinas, Erasmus, or Molina), or to darken it a bit more, as especially with Luther......

.......It was therefore in the sixteenth century, an specifically in Protestant theology, that the accusation of man and the world reached its climax in Western civilization. Never before had they been so totally condemned, and never had this condemnation reached such a large audience. Luther and his successors urged all Christians to "despair totally of themselves in order to be able to receive Christ's grace" "Having grown into a bad tree, man can only want and do evil"........

......Christian civilization placed the Fall at the centre of its preoccupations and construed it as a catastrophe initiating all history.......Although the story of Adam and Eve's crime appears in the first book of the Old Testament (Genesis 3: 1 - 24), ancient Judaism did not focus its theology on the first sin."

- Jean Delumeau, Sin and Fear: the Emergence of a Western Guilt Culture 13th - 18th Centuries (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), 1.

So. If original sin, and a sin nature is passed on to humanity though sexual reproduction..... and people are thoroughly cleansed of this sin through baptism..... then how is it that two baptized Christians can pass it on to their children?

Also If one follows the Augustinian belief that we are born with sin in us then Mary would have sin in her genes and should therefore have transmitted it to Jesus since He was still conceived in her womb. Some Christians recognize this problem and maintain that Mary was born sinless so that she could deliver Jesus sinless into the world. To this, my question would be..... so then how did Mary get to be sinless since she was conceived and born a human?

After the influence of Augustine's understanding of the original sin the general view amongst much Christianity is that during the fall God was more or less full of wrath against Adam and Eve for their infraction, and gave them the boots out of Eden. Yet here are a few quotes relating to how at least some of the fathers viewed God's judgement in the fall.

Irenaeus (130 to about 200 A.D. from his book Against the Heretics

Wherefore also He drove Adam out of Paradise, and removed him far from the tree of life, not because He envied him the tree of life, as some dare to assert, but because He pitied him and desired that he should not continue always a sinner, and that the sin which surrounded him should not be immortal, and the evil interminable and irremediable (Irenaeus - Against the Heretics Book 3, chapter. 23, 6

Gregory of Nazianzen (330 - 390 A.D) wrote.

Adam receives death as a gain, and (thereby) the cutting off of sin; that evil should not be immortal: and so the vengeance turns out a kindness, for thus I of opinion it is that God punishes.: - (Nazianzen. Orat. xlii)

In 180 AD Theophilus wrote:

Because of his disobedience, man extracted as from a fountain, labour, pain and grief. At last, he fell prey to death. God showed great kindness to man in this, for He did not allow him to remain in sin forever. Instead, by a kind of banishment, as it were, He cast man out of Paradise. God did this so that man could expiate his sin through punishment, within and appointed time. Having been disciplined, man could afterwards be restored .... (Theophilus to Autoclycus, Book 2, chap. 26)

Here we see an understanding of the fall and God's judgement, written from some major and highly respected Bishops and theologians, that is very different from what Augustine taught and much of the church believes (in the West at least). Compare this to what Augustine said in City of God

- book 14 - chapter 15

Therefore, because the Sin was a despising of the authority of God―who had created man; who had made him in His own image; who had set him above the other animals; who had placed him in Paradise; who had enriched him with abundance of every kind and of safety; who had laid upon him neither many, nor great, nor difficult commandments, but, in order to make a wholesome obedience easy to him, had given him a single very brief and very light precept by which He reminded that creature whose service was to be free that He was Lord,― it was just that condemnation followed, and condemnation such that man, who by keeping the commandments should have been spiritual even in his flesh, became fleshly even in his spirit; and as in his pride he had sought to be his own satisfaction, God in His justice abandoned him to himself, not to live in the absolute independence he affected, but instead of the liberty he desired, to live dissatisfied with himself in a hard and miserable bondage to him to whom by sinning he had yielded himself, doomed in spite of himself to die in body as he had willingly become dead in spirit, condemned even to eternal death, had not the grace of God delivered him, because he had forsaken eternal life. Whoever thinks such punishment either excessive or unjust shows his inability to measure the great iniquity of sinning where sin might so easily have been avoided.

- Book 13 - chapter 3

To this infantine imbecility the first man did not fall by his lawless presumption and just sentence; but human nature was in his person vitiated and altered to such an extent, that he suffered in his members the warring of disobedient lust, and became subject to the necessity of dying. And what he himself had become by sin and punishment, such he generated those whom he begot; that is to say, subject to sin and death. And if infants are delivered from this bondage of sin by the Redeemer's grace, they can suffer only this death which separates soul and body; but being redeemed from the obligation of sin, they do not pass to that second endless and penal death.

-Book 13 - chapter 13

For, as soon as our first parents had transgressed the commandment, divine grace forsook them, and they were confounded at their own wickedness; and therefore they took fig-leaves, ......and covered their shame; for though their members remained the same, they had shame now where they had none before. They experienced a new motion of their flesh, which had become disobedient to them, in strict retribution of their own disobedience to God. (Edit - what about the fact that God later graciously covered them.)

Book 13 - chapter 15

we are subject to the death of the body, not by the law of nature, by which God ordained no death for man, but by His righteous infliction on account of sin; for God, taking vengeance on sin, said to the man, in whom we all then were, “Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.”

So basically the early theologians believed that judgement of the fall was an act of corrective kindness, where mankind inherited death for the purpose of not having to live forever in a world impacted by sin. The early church (with the exception of the Gnostics) believed that mankind after the fall was born with the full ability to choose goodness, and therefore God (in fact Basil the Great mentioned the soul "abiding in the contemplation of the beautiful and the enjoyment of spiritual things", relating to the nature that it was born with). Otherwise for them it wouldn't have been just for God to punish their sins. Yet they believed that God's judgement was remedial... even to the point of using sacramental language, and using the examples of the pain induced through medicinal purposes. In a bit I'll write out a few quotes from some major early theologians showing how they thought the afterlife judgement was corrective and medicinal in nature.

In contrast Augustine's thought has led and a good portion of Christianity to believe that God's wrath burned against humanity during the fall, and that because of the fall we have inherited a sin nature from Adam and Eve (Why would God have created a world where we inherit a sin nature because of Adam and Eve sinning)? Thus, in this opinion we are born with and evil inclination towards sin, and yet God has people to be eternally tormented without mercy for their sins, even when they are born with said inclination to do them in the first place. And then to make matters worse Augustine taught (and some current Christianity still teaches), that these people were incapable of choosing salvation on their own, because of this sin nature which they had inherited. Which was pretty much the exact opposite of what the early fathers taught (see Basil the Great's quote above).

So you see how different the Post Augustinian church's views are (in the West at least) from these highly respected theologians of early church. Basically the early church thought that we sin by choice and God's judgement on sin was corrective "restorative justice" from a loving father,and now much of Christianity teaches that we sin (at least partially) because we were born with that inclination, and that God's judgement on humanities sin is punitive from an angry God whose upset because said sin (which they are born inclined to do in the first place) was an insult to God's holiness. Some even teach that God gets his glory from these judgements ( (Later I'll touch on a few scriptures that connects God's holiness and Glory with his mercy).

So honestly.... which view portrays God In a worse light?

I know that I've talked here before about the doctrine of eternal torments (probably ad-nauseam), but the fact of it is.... is that there are writings, including from Augustine, that prove that this doctrine had the least dogmatic followers in the early church. That seems pretty clear. What is open to argument is how many of the early Christians fully believed in the Apocatastasis (the ultimate reconciliation of all) compared to how man only had a certain hope in this. There were also some fathers such as Irenaeus that seemed to lean towards some form of annilhation belief. As far as I can tell, the only well known founding father, before Augustine, that really truly seemed to believe in eternal conscious torments (this without holding to any hope at all), was Tertullian. Although I suppose there were others.

So Augustine was the first Christian to dogmatically teach the doctrine of eternal torments, although it wasn't completely unheard of in the early church. Of course, since Augustine's teachings, the vast majority of Christianity believes in the doctrine of eternal conscious torments, even to the state that for most Christians in the west the idea of ultimate restoration would be considered to be unheard of or unfathomable. It also would be considered to be a "Liberal doctrine" with liberal meaning changing Christianity. But if many of the early Christians held to the doctrine of Apocatastasis (or at least a certain hope for this), wouldn't Augustine's more dogmatic views on eternal torture be that which is "Liberal" (or novel) at the time?

You see. The idea that we haven't inherited a sin nature, or the belief in Apocatastasis would make many modern Christians squirm in their seats and cry heresy ..... but the early Christians would have been quite comfortable with this. In fact, in regards to Apocatastasis Augustine considered those who believed in this doctrine to be "tender hearted doctors" but he still considered them to be among the Orthodox. He is even quoted as saying that most men (Christians) of his time believed in this. Now a days Rob Bell comes out as only being agnostic about the idea, and he gets flamed for it.

Which of course leads me to some of the early Christian's views on the afterlife judgements Just for the record - I don't know if they would have considered differing views on this to be heretical. Also, I think it's safe to say that the following quotes don't just reflect their understanding of the afterlife judgements, but also, surely reflect their understanding of God's judgements in this life. That being restorative justice instead of angry punitive punishing (although I'm not sure if they would have used those terms).

First some quotes from Gregory of Nyssa. It's interesting to note that Gregory was invited to be on the council that gave us the Nicene creed, and actually wrote up the final draft of this creed. This council was of course a major council the church put together to fight against heresies.... and some of Gregory of Nyssa's writings clearly taught Apocatastasis (the ultimate restoration of all). In fact a sermon by Gregory about this, still exists.

So if he was invited to be on this council, and in fact wrote up the final draft of the Nicene Creed, then they obviously didn't consider him to be a heretic even when it was plainly known that he taught the doctrine of Apocatastasis . Of course from this I can't know how many of the Bishops at this time taught it, but I think I can safely say that they didn't have a huge problem with it. As a matter of fact Gregory Nazianzus who was voted to be the head of that council also had some writings that were inclined towards this teaching.

As well.... if this doctrine was known at this time (which it obviously was) then the Bishops at this council obviously didn't consider it to be a problem....because not only does the Nicene Creed not speak against it.... they in fact had at least a couple of Bishops (who knows how many more) on that council that believed in it, and then to boot, Gregory of Nyssa was the guy the got to make up the final draft of this Creed.

Anyhow some Quotes from Gregory of Nyssa. (taken from the book - Universal Salvation - Eschatology in the thought of Gregory of Nyssa - By Karl Rahner)

Perhaps someone, taking his departure from the fact that after three days of distress in the darkness even the Egyptians shared in the light, might be led to perceive the final restoration which is expected to take place later in the kingdom of heaven (by using the words "is expected" he implies that more than just him have this expectation) of those who have suffered condemnation in Gehenna. For that darkness that could be felt, as the history says, has a great affinity both in its name and in its actual meaning to the outer darkness. (page 79)

snip

We learn from these things that there will be no destruction of humanity, in order that the divine work shall not be rendered useless being obliterated by non-existence. But instead of humanity, sin will be destroyed and reduced to non being. (page 80)

snip

When evil shall have some day been annihilated in the long revolutions of the ages, nothing shall be left outside the world of goodness but that even from those evil spirits shall rise in harmony the confession of Christ's lordship. (page 80) (Note here how he talks about the annihilation of evil in the long revolutions of the ages, this is very significant when one considers that Gregory of Nyssa read Greek and was reading from the original Greek scriptures It indicates that he understood that there were ages (aionos) to come.)

Some Ante-Nicene fathers discreetly, propagated, Christian universalism as something that only mature Christians could accept, as did Gregory Nazianzen and Maximus the Confessor (Cf. von Balthasa, Dare we Hope?, 63.)

Gregory of Nazianzen - (Greek speaking Christian who was voted president of the second great Ecumenical Council by over 100 Bishops.)

"Today salvation has been brought to the universe to whatsoever is visible and whatsoever is invisible...... (today) the gates of Hades are thrown open" (Or xl 11).

"Adam receives death as a gain, and (thereby) the cutting off of sin; that evil should not be immortal: an so the vengeance turns out a kindness, for thus I am of opinion it is that God punishes" (Nazianzen. Orat xl 11).

"....they shall be baptized with fire, that last baptism which consumes all vanity and vice'(Orat. xxx1x, 19 - n)

These Ante - Nicene fathers use the word baptize to describe the correction in fire. This is a sacramental language that of course is related to the use of Baptism mentioned in Romans 6: 6 - 7.

Here Baptism is mentioned as being a process that destroys sin and cleanses the person. Of course this very much aligns with a restorative justice view of God's punishments.

The Bible uses a baptismal type cleansing language in describing judgement.

Isaiah 4: 2 - 4

In that day shall the Bud of Yahweh become beautiful and glorious........Everyone written unto life in Jerusalem, When My Lord shall have bathed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, And the blood guiltiness of Jerusalem he shall wash away out of her midst, - by the Spirit of judgement, and by the Spirit of thorough cleansing.

Now when it comes to the doctrine of ultimate reconciliation much is made of Origen. I'm not going to quote from Origen (although he did have much of value to say), mainly because I'm going to stick with non-controversial fathers, who have always remained in good standing within the eyes of the larger Christian community. But it's also worth noting that many Christians say that Origen was the first to teach Ultimate reconciliation of all, yet this thought can be found in some even earlier Christian writings. Namely Clement of Alexandria and the Sibyline books.

Clement of Alexandria (taken from "Her Gates Will Never be Shut" - page 121)

Clement's importance, to my mind, is that he clarifies the NT language for "punishment". Clement insists that God's "correction" (paideia - Heb 12:9) and "chastisement" (kolasis - Matt 25:46) is as a loving father, only an always meant for the healing and salvation of the whole world. He denies that God ever inflicts "punishment" (timoria - Heb 10:29 - vengeance) in the vengeful sense, a word Jesus never used. Watch how Clement ties judgement to correction with a view to universal redemption.

Clement of Alexandria -

"For all things are arranged with a view to the salvation of the universe by the Lord of the universe, both generally and particularly..... But necessary corrections, through the goodness of the great overseeing Judge....... by various acts of anticipative judgement, and by the perfect judgement compel egregious sinners to repent (Strom.7.2).

snip

"He, indeed, saves all; but some (He saves) converting them by punishments; others, however, who follow voluntarily (He saves) with dignity of honour; so that every knee should bow to Him, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth, that is, angels, men and souls that before His advent have departed from this temporal life (Strom. 7.16).

Indeed the Sibylline books in the 2nd, 3rd centuries.... state the beliefs current in those days. -

"All things, even Hades are to be melted down in the divine fire in order to be purified All just and unjust pass through the fire. The lost are finally to be saved at the request of the righteous." (Lib.ii., vv. 195-340)........ "The Sibyl asserts that the pains of the damned are to be terminated." (Fabric., Bibl. Grec.I. p. 203)

Here some more quotes.

Ambrose - Bishop of Milan, (340 - 397 A.D.)

The mystery of the Incarnation is the salvation of the entire creation..... as it is elsewhere said, "the whole creation shall be set free from the bondage of corruption"....... So the Son of Man came to save that which was lost, for as in Adam all die, so too, in Christ shall all be made alive. The subjection of Christ consists not in few, but in all....... Christ will be subject to God in us by means of the obedience of all..... when vices having been cast away, and sin reduced to submission, one spirit of all people, in one sentiment, shall with one accord begin to cleave to God, Then God will be All in All..... (Ambrose. De fide lib. v. 7)

Titus - Bishop of Bostra, (364 A.D.)

The very pit itself is a place of torments and of chastisement, but is not eternal. It was made that it might be a medicine and help to those who sin. Sacred are the stripes which are medicine to those who have sinned. "Therefore we do not complain of the pits of abyssis- but rather know that they are places of torment, and chastisement, being for the correction of those who have sinned" ......(Titus _ Adv. Man. lib. i. 32

Diodorus, (376 A.D.) - Bishop of Tarsus

"For the wicked there are punishments not perpetual.... according to the amount of malice in their works.... The resurrection, therefore, is regarded as a blessing not only to the good but also to the evil....(Diodorus. ASSEM.Bibl. Or. 3. p. 324)

Theodoret - Bishop of Cyrus (423 A.D.)

"After his anger, God will bring to an end His judgement; for He will not be angry onto the end nor keep His wrath to eternity." .....(Theodoret.InIs.xiii)

.... "He shews here the reason for punishment, for the Lord, the lover of men, torments us only to cure us, that He may put a stop to the course of our iniquity" (Theodoret. Hom in Ezech. cap. Vi. vers 6)

Chrystostom - (400 A.D.)

"If punishment were an evil to those who sin, God never would have added evils to evils."..."God kindly inflicts vengeance"..... (Chrystostom - Gen.iii.Hom.xviii)

Gregory of Nyssa - (332 - 398)

The Divine judgement does not as its chief object cause pain to those who have sinned, but works good alone by separating from evil, and drawing to a share in blessedness. But this severance of good from evil causes pain (of the judgement). In other words, the penalty is the cure; it is merely the unavoidable pain attending the removal of the intruding element of sin.....(Gregory. Dialogue of the Soul and Resurrection)

So....Here the founding fathers are using language like sacrament, medicine, baptism, cure, sacred stripes.... to explain God's judgement

Yet compare that to what Augustine said in the following.

City of God - book 19 - chapter 28

But, on the other hand, they who do not belong to this city of God shall inherit eternal misery, which is also called the second death, because the soul shall then be separated from God its life, and therefore cannot be said to live, and the body shall be subjected to eternal pains........But in the world to come the pain continues that it may torment (compare Augustine's use of the word torment to Clement of Alexandria's understanding of the Greek word Kolasis), and the nature endures that it may be sensible of it; and neither ceases to exist, lest punishment also should cease. Now, as it is through the last judgement that men pass to these ends, the good to the supreme good, the evil to the supreme evil. (compare this last sentence to Chrystostom's quote above)

So according to Augustine supreme evil will continue eternally. How does that line up with a God of love that desires to destroy evil? Augustine made a big deal of God's sovereignty......so then is God almighty or not? Will not an Almighty God eventually destroy evil?

Also compare that to what Augustine said in City of God books 20 and 21. Augustine was quite probably the first Christian to really describe a punitive torturous hell, which has greatly influenced Christianity's thought and imagery.

Mind.... much of the Western church's imagery of hell comes from the poem Dante's Inferno.

Yes. think about it. Christianity has largely based it's understanding of how it's loved ones will be eternally tortured...... on a poem written in the 1300's......1300 or so years after Christ. Western Christian art is full of images of demons torturing people. It's everywhere from our books to Cathedrals. Now, we know that Demons are evil and hate humanity, and want to torture us...... so this would mean that God will reward them for rebelling against him and causing thousands of years of evil and pain to his world.....by letting them torture 90% of humanity for all eternity. It's kind of a rotten deal for the human race I would think, after all we fell in the first place, in part, because of the devil's temptation. Yet he gets to torture humanity.

So now many Christians are saying that God's judgement comes because sin is an offence to a "Holy God". So therefore his "Holy Wrath" burns and he hurts people, causing terrible earthquakes, where little children are torn and maimed. Yet isn't being often offended a sign of insecurity? So then, is God insecure? How is causing an earthquake, leading to a place where children are raised without the nurturing environment of their parents, going to stop sin?

They then say that we should grow in holiness...... so does that mean that I should grow into the place where I punitively punish people for offending my growing holy nature. Some even say that God gets glory from punitively punishing evil.

But wait. The Bible associates God's holiness and his glory with his mercy. The nations are to glorify God for his mercy.

When the choir of Israel sang the praises of God, they magnified his holiness.

2 Chronicles 20: 21

He appointed singers unto the Lord, and that they should praise the beauty of holiness.

And here is what they sang.

2 Chronicles 20: 21

Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures for the ages.

There are other texts that relate to this understanding of God's Holiness. A couple being.

Isaiah 57: 15-16

For thus says the high and lofty One Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is Holy..... “I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wrath.....”

Hosea 11: 9

I will not execute the fierceness of my anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, an not man; the Holy one in the midst of you.

Of course Jesus also showed the connection between the Holiness of God and his mercy in his earthly life. The one “who is Holy” and “separate from sinners” was here on Earth as a “friend of sinner” (c.f. Hebrews 7: 26; Matthew 11:9)

In His book “A Passion for Justice” Johnston McMaster touches on the afore mentioned Hosea text.

Yet in the history of Israel's experience and understanding Hosea produced the groundbreaking vision of God the deeply compassionate One. Ultimately the prophet pushed beyond the destructive culture of violence to a God who was God and not human, i.e. violent, to a God of solidarity and compassion who suffered alongside and whose deep compassion would never let go or give up. Hosea highlighted the power of transforming compassion (Hosea 11: 1-9).

Jesus was in this Jewish prophetic tradition. He too pushed beyond the boundaries of truth in his own community. The faith community has often had the same problem. It more often mirrors the popular value system, the comfortable, self-serving ethics of the domination systems. the Matthean Beatitudes turn the domination system values upside down. Jesus points to God's upside-down kingdom. The fifth Beatitude pronounces the blessedness of the merciful: 'for they will receive mercy' (Matthew 5: 7). In the Sermon on the Mount in which the Beatitudes are placed, Jesus also visions God as merciful to all, without favouritism or exception. God's love, mercy and compassion are for the good and bad alike, chosen people and hated imperialists, no distinctions. Luke repeats this God vision in his Sermon on the Plain, using a word even closer to relational compassion. For both Matthew and Luke the ethical imperative is to imitate the compassion of God....

(A passion for Justice – Social Ethics in the Celtic Tradition – by Johnston McMaster - Page 127)

Now with this in mind I'll move back to Romans, and touch on what Paul has to say about mercy being connected to God's glory in;

Romans 15: 6 – 12

..... that , with one accord, with one mouth, you may be glorifying the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore be taking one another to yourselves according as Christ also took you to Himself, for the glory of God.

For I am saying that Christ has become the Servant of the Circumcision, for the sake of the truth of God, to confirm the patriarchal promises. Yet the nations are to glorify God for His mercy.

As well. Some Christians have the explanation for these things, that "Gods ways are higher than our ways". But wait again. That text in Isaiah is talking about God's mercy. It's saying that God is merciful even when we wouldn't be. But some Christians use this as an explanation as to why God would punitively punish people in ways that we think are horrifying.

There are other writings from the early fathers. But this should suffice in this regard for now. Yet the following is and interesting quote that reflects what the majority of Ante-Nicene Christians thought on the matter.

Basil the Great - (b. AD 329)

Basil says in one place in a work attributed to him "the mass of men (Christians) say that there is to be an end of punishment to those who are punished".....(Basil the Great - De Asceticis)

So then the question arises..... Why were Augustine's doctrines so different from that of the founding fathers. Some say that it was because of the influence of the Pagan Gnostic cult in which he had been involved in before his conversion. But there is another good reason, being that Augustine didn't know Greek. He was reading from the Latin Vulgate translation that Jerome had recently translated, and it's flaws were an influence on Augustine's thought.

One of my Bishop friends once passed on the following to me.

The doctrine of Original Sin was based on a poor translation of the Greek into the Latin Vulgate by Augustine’s colleague, Jerome. That passage is Romans 5:12, which says “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned”. The Latin Vulgate renders this passage differently as “because of Adam in whom all have sinned” – the Latin, “in quo omnes peccaverunt”, is a poor translation of the Greek, ‘eph' O pantes emarton’ which actually says because all men have sinned. The scriptural support for this doctrine of inherited sin arises out of a misinterpretation of the Greek into Latin in the Vulgate bible.

But now this scripture also seems to argue against what would become Augustine's doctrine of original sin.

Ezekiel 18:19 - 20

Yet you say "Why should no the son suffer for the iniquity of the father? When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all of my statutes, he shall surely live.

 “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the  iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”. 

Also, to my understanding Augustine was the first Christian to use human philosophy and reasoning to try and figure out what the Greek word aionos ment. The early Greek Christians didn't need to use philosophy to understand the meaning of this word. Why..... because it was in their mother language, and they new darn well what it ment. So then my question would be.... why use human reasoning to figure out a Greek word when one could just look to the early Greeks for their understanding of the word? (To my understanding the Greeks of Augustines time were speaking in a slightly different form of Greek than the original Koine Greek of the Bible, this is part of what has led to errors in the Latin Vulgate and other Bibles).

But of course Augustine didn't do this, he reasoned out what the word means, and this particular reasoning is what many still hold to today.

His thought went thus. Because the word aionos speaks of the Christian's life with Christ in Matthew 24: 26 it must be eternal, and so therefore in that same passage aionos must also be referring to eternal torments.

But that is not how the early Koine Greek speaking Christians understood this word.

The following is taken from the book "Christianity and Classical culture" in it's glossary of Greek technical terms.

"Gregory of Nyssa (in his writings) maintains a clear distinction between the terms aeonios (from aeon) and aidios (from aei.) He never applies the second term to the torments, and he never applies the first term to bliss or the Deity. "Aei" designates that which is superior to time or outside of time. This is the sphere of the Divinity. Creation however, abides within time and can be measured by the passing of the centuries. Aeon designates temporality, that which occurs within time".

I could send a whole essay showing how Biblically the word aionos must refer to a limited age and not eternity. But for now I'll just show this quick example.

First.

1 Corinthians 15: 25

For he must be reigning until he should be placing all of his enemies under his feet. The last enemy is being abolished: death.

Compare this to.

Revelation 11: 15

"The Kingdom of this world became our Lord's and his Christ's, and He shall be reigning for the ages (aionos) of the ages (aionos.)

Now very many Bibles translate aionos, in the verse to be "eternities of the eternities" (although certainly not all of them - there are dozens that do not). But if Paul said that Jesus is reigning "until", meaning that he will eventually give up his reign...... then how could he be reigning for the eternities of the eternities in Revelation 11: 15?

This shows that aionos should be translated as ages (or eons), which is consistent with how the early Koine Greek speaking fathers understood the word.

Of course Revelation also uses this same phrase to describe the lake of fire.

Rev 20:10

And the adversary who is deceiving them is cast into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet are also. And they shall be tormented (basanizo - better translated as "testing") day and night for the ages (aionos) of the ages (aionos.)................And death and the unseen were cast into the Lake of fire. This is the second death the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire.

This shows that the lake of fire cannot be of eternal duration..... because it burns for the same description of time as Jesus reigns..... and the Bible says that Jesus will eventually give up his reign. Being that it will eventually end.

What I have said is consistent with Gregory of Nyssa's understanding of the word... ... and this quote which I've already mentioned above, being - "When evil shall have some day been annihilated in the long revolutions of the ages, nothing shall be left outside the world of goodness".

It's obvious then that Augustine's interpretation of the word is completely inconsistent with this. So what's the answer...... We'll Revelation says that the Lake of Fire is burning for the ages of the ages, and the "the Bride" will reign in the City of God (or be the City of God depending on ones views) for these ages of the ages. The people in the City of Fire will progressively repent, and walk into the City of God through the gates that are always open. When it's all said and done... everybody will be in the City of God, then Jesus will give up his reign, God will be all in ALL..... and the ages end, and we move into eternity.

So, now the church at large is following the Latin speaking Augustine's understanding of the word aionos, and is using his philosophical reasoning to argue for his interpretation of this word, instead of the understanding of the Koine Greek speaking founding fathers...... God help us.

There are some literal Bibles that don't translate aionos the Augustinian way. If one researches them online he/she will find that they are regarded as the most accurate English translations.

Young's Literal translation translates the verse in question as follows.

Matthew 25: 46

And these shall go away to punishment age-during (aionos), but the righteous to life age-during (aionos).

The Concordant Bible translates this verse thus:

Matthew 25: 46

And these shall be coming away into chastening eonian (aionos), yet the just into life eionian (aionos).

Also remember what I had quoted earlier about the Koine Greek speaking Christian, Clement of Alexandria.

"Clement's importance, to my mind, is that he clarifies the NT language for "punishment". Clement insists that God's "correction" (paideia - Heb 12:9) and "chastisement" (kolasis - Matt 25:46) is as a loving father, only an always meant for the healing and salvation of the whole world."

Here's this verse from the Emphasized Bible.

Matthew 25: 46

And these shall go away into age-abiding (aionos) correction (Kolasis), but the righteous into age-abiding (aionos) life.

The Jonathan Mitchell Bible has the fullest rendering of this verse.

Matthew 25: 46

"And so, these folks will be going off into an eonian pruning (a lopping-off which last for an undetermined length of time; and age-lasting correction and rehabilitation; a pruning which brings betterment and which has its source and character in the Age; a cutting off during the ages), yet the fair and just folks who are in right relationship with people and are in accord with the Way pointed out [go off] into eonian life (life which has its source and character in the Age; life pertaining to the Age; or the life of and for the ages).

So. Compare that to what Augustine said in his book "the City of God", and the vast majority of Christian imagery and thought that has existed since.

Just to be clear. I don't think that Augustine was the only culprit that changed much of Christianity's understanding..... but I do think that he was very influential. Of course there are other arguments against other thought that Augustine entered into Christianity..... but I've already gone on long enough.

Getting back to original sin.

Having said what I've said above about the rejection of original sin. Then the question is.... Why do people sin. I feel that I should attempt to give some sort of explanation of my understanding. First... we live in a world full of sin and temptations. Second we live in a world where demons are leading us astray. Third.... we have simply inherited death through the fall and sin. as mentioned above. Which leads to a quick explanation of this.

From the Concordant literal Bible.

Romans 5: 12

Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through onto mankind, on which all sinned.

Thus mankind did not inherit a sin nature from Adam's fall. We inherited death.

Now to look at another misleading translation in this area.

First from the NIV Bible

Romans 6: 19

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves.

From the NRSV Bible.

Romans 6: 19

I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.

Both of these translations imply that we sin because of an inherited problem with our natures. But, again, here is what two of the more accurate literal translations say.

From the Emphasized Bible.

Romans 6: 19

In human fashion I am speaking because of the weakness of your flesh.

From the Concordant Literal Translation.

Romans 6: 19

As a man I am saying this because of the infirmity of your flesh.

The Greek word that these more accurate Bibles translate as flesh is "Sarx". When one looks in a Bible Concordance it is easy to see that this word should be translated as flesh, and has nothing to do with a sin nature.

Remember what Tertullian had said about the flesh.

"Is not the doctrine of the Gnostics from the beginning and everywhere an invective against the flesh? According to them it is unclean against its first formation of the dregs of the ground. According to them (the Gnostics), it is worthless, weak, covered with guilt, laden with misery, full of trouble"...... Tertullian (c. 210, W), 3.548

Also Romans 2: 14 connects human nature with the ability to do what the law demands, as God's law is written on humanity's hearts.

"For whenever they of the nations that have no law, by nature may be doing that which the law demands, these having no law are a law to themselves, who are displaying the action of the law written on their hearts.

Thus in Romans Paul does not talk about an inherited sin nature but instead talks about the problem of death passing into all mankind, on which all sinned. He then goes on to say more about this subject.

Romans 5: 14

Nevertheless death reigns from Adam ono Moses, over those also who do not sin in the likeness of the transgression of Adam.

Romans 5: 17

For if by the offence of the one death reigns through the one, those obtaining the superabundance of grace, and the gratuity of righteousness shall be reigning in life through the one Jesus Christ.

Romans 5: 20

Yet where sin increases grace superexeeds, that even as sin reigns in death, Grace should also be reigning through righteousness for life eonian, through Jesus Christ.

Romans 7: 22 - 25

For I am gratified as to the law of God as to the man within, yet I am observing a different law in my members, warring with the law of my mind, and leading me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. A wretched man am I. What will rescue me out of this body of death. Grace. I thank God through Jesus Christ my lord. Consequently, then I myself, with the mind, indeed am slaving for God's law, yet with the flesh for sins law.

Romans 8: 1 - 3

Nothing consequently is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Not according to flesh are they walking but according to Spirit, for the Spirit's law of life in Christ Jesus frees you from the law of sin and death.

Romans 7: 13

But sin, that it may be appearing sin, is producing death to me, yet I am fleshly having been disposed of under sin.

Romans 8: 10 - 12

Now if Christ is in you the body, indeed is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is life because of righteousness........ He who rouses Christ Jesus from among the dead will also be vivifying (bringing to life) your mortal bodies because of his Spirit making its home in you.

Romans 8: 13

For if you are living in accord with flesh you are about to be dying. Yet if, in spirit, you are putting the practices of you body to death, you will be living.

Just for the record... I'm sure that you were aware of those scriptures and I wasn't trying to be condescending in relating this.

But anyhow we see here that the problem with mankind's flesh is not that it is evil or depraved but that it is dead and dying. It was death that passed through into mankind, not total depravity or a "sin nature". The human race is born as "spiritual lepers" as such. Our flesh is born in the state of "death" similar to the disease of leprosy (mentioned often in the Bible), and like in leprosy the flesh becomes more and more corrupted. We cleanse our leprous flesh first through Baptism, then through life giving things such as the Eucharist (communion), God's creation, and things of the spirit.

So now the human puts himself into a "vicious circle". Through death and pride of life, and deception he sins. This causes various problems. But sin causes death. So now he goes to more sins trying to find life. Which of course leads to addiction. Our flesh is craving life but sin causes more death, causing our flesh to crave more life. Therefore we have scriptures from which some Christians teach that the flesh is "evil or sinful". Yet this concept comes from the Gnostic influences on Christianity . The flesh is simply craving life and has become addicted to false things.

Thus we have the following scriptures.

Romans 7:14 Yet I am fleshly having been disposed of under sin. For what I am effecting I know not, for not what I will, this I am putting into practice, but what I am hating, this I am doing....Yet now no longer I who am effecting it, but sin making it's home in me.

14:18 For I am aware that good is not making it's home in me (that is my flesh), for to will is lying beside me, yet to be effecting the ideal is not. For it is not the good that I will that I am doing, but the evil that I am not willing, this I am putting into practice. Now if what I am not willing this I am doing, it is not longer I who am effecting it, but Sin which is making it's home in me.

Note the highlighted text that says that Sin is making it's home in him. If he had a sin nature wouldn't sin already be at home in him, if so why would sin **need** to make it's home in him.

These scriptures are not saying that the flesh is evil but that it has become addicted to sin for the reasons mentioned above. This scripture does not say that the flesh is not good. But that good is not making it's home in the flesh. These are different things...... Evil is making it's home in the flesh because it has become addicted, through it's craving of life. As mentioned earlier this addiction causes more death which causes more craving of life. Which causes the person to seek after more evil in order to try and find life.. which causes Evil to make it's "home in the flesh".

But, of course Jesus gives the solution.... Life. Like the afore mentioned Baptism, and the Eucharist (communion). But unfortunately many Christians throughout the centuries have resorted to punishing themselves in order to overcome their "sin nature"..... this punishment (sometimes self mutilation) is not life giving, it's "death giving", and so of course makes the problem worse.

So when a child is born it isn't born with a "sin nature" or inherited sin, or accountable to God for Adams sin. We simply come into the world... dying from birth... because of Adam's sin which brought death to the human race. A human is born, made in the image of God with ineffable dignity. I believe that this is consistent with early Christian thought.

Here's another quote from a previously mentioned book.

In 180 Irenaeus wrote.

By means of our first parents, we were all brought into bondage by being made subject to death.

For death came upon those who had eaten. Along with the fruit, they fell under the power of death, because they ate in disobedience. And disobedience to God entails death. For that reason they came under the penalty of death. Thus in the day that they ate, in the same day they died. For they became deaths debtors.

In his book "Against the Heretics" Irenaeus is consistent in this kind of thought. He never associates the fall with inheriting a sin nature.

So therefore. I would argue that at the time of the fall. God gave Adam and Eve death as an act of mercy so that they wouldn't be in the sin state forever. But from this we have the problem of sin and death, yet God's judgement is restorative justice. Not only justice for those who are wronged, but also a means of restoring those who do the wrong back to righteousness and Christ.... and life. All who died in Adam will eventually be made alive in Christ (Romans 5). This life to come will be better than before the fall because we will have a greater understanding of God's mercy and love.... and thus will love and glorify God.

Christ died for the forgiveness of sins.... and is the only way to God..... We repent of our sins and accept Holy Spirit into our hearts then get baptized for cleansing and to become part of the ecclesia. We live out a life giving sacramental Christian life.

Those who reject God are corrected (like Gregory said "in the long revolutions of the ages") to the point where they eventually come to repentance....... This is justice for those who have been hurt, and restoration and purification for those who have done wrong. It is not separate from God's love, and mercy.... but is also consistent with God's justice. It is not a dualistic God.

Also, it is consistent with the Ante-Nicene quotes which I have mentioned above, and it is not unbiblical (of course that's another essay).

So I believe that The Gospel message is to repent and accept Christ into your hearts now, get baptized, and begin your LIFE journey into deeper loving union (at-one-ment or theosis) with Christ..... and in this also bypass the judgement to come (being the medicinal sacrament of correction, pruning, and restorative justice). This is completely consistent with what the pre-Augustinian Bishops and theologians quoted above believed.

It's good news.

For the record (and I'm not trying to be arrogant or overbearing in this) I could argue for Apocatastasis historically and scripturally (although of course some would argue that I'm wrong), and it is of course fairly easy to argue philisophically. But I expect most people would probably need more than that, which I do understand. For myself there has been different times when Holy Spirit has "impressed" things on me in my search. So for me this isn't just an intellectual understanding.... it's a deep spiritual "knowing". I know, that I know, that I know.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoa. That is a LONG post.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As an elder in our church here in Cincy, my constant guidance to any of our leadership is to err on the side of grace. Its a constant reminder (certainly for myself as well) because our tendency is to err on judgment. It's messy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Attica,

Thanks for all your work in that post.

I'm afraid my reply, at least my first pass, is going to be much shorter.

Original sin is a difficult topic. There is no question that belief in original sin, affecting all men from birth, has always belonged to historic Christian faith. In the thinking of the early Fathers, is because we are all born in sin that infants must be baptized.

Original sin has been understood and described in different ways, but I think too much has sometimes been made of some of these differences. I'm tempted to borrow a page from Chesterton and quip that Orthodoxy and Catholicism disagree about original sin, especially Orthodoxy. In my view, Catholic teaching on original sin, as opposed to metaphors and imagery, is not basically opposed to what I find in Eastern theology.

You opened with a citation from Origin, whose important witness to the faith of the early church I agree has too often been wrongly minimized. Here is what he says: "Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin … In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3).

Tertullian, in his long treatise on the soul, attempts to articulate at a very early date the uncleanness that every man inherits from Adam: "Unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God (John 3:5); in other words, he cannot be holy … Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration (Romans 6:4); and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame … There is, then, besides the evil which supervenes on the soul from the intervention of the evil spirit, an antecedent, and in a certain sense natural, evil which arises from its corrupt origin. For, as we have said before, the corruption of our nature is another nature having a god and father of its own, namely the author of (that) corruption." (On the Soul, chs 39-41).

Again, from Cyprian of Carthage: "If, in the case of the worst sinners and those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the remission of their sins is granted and no one is held back from baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an infant not be held back, who, having but recently been born, has done no sin, except that, born of the flesh according to Adam, he has contracted the contagion of that old death from his first being born. For this very reason does he [an infant] approach more easily to receive the remission of sins: because the sins forgiven him are not his own but those of another" (Letters 64:2).

Augustine's thought, as I said earlier, is complex, subtle and formative. As you say, Augustine deeply influenced the subsequent history of Western Christian thought, but he did so precisely because of the power and sophistication of his interpretive approach to articulating the faith in a new context, addressing new question and refuting new heresies. His articulation of original sin differed from earlier fathers at least in part because he had to contend with, for example, Pelagianism, and they hadn't. Anyone is free to critique Augustine's interpetive approach as following a wrong trajectory, but there is no question that he was asking questions and offering answers along lines that earlier generations hadn't dealt with at all.

For precisely this reason, it is not historically credible that Augustine's views would have been regarded as "heretical" by earlier Fathers. Mistaken, one can argue, but not heretical, because heresy refers to denial of core dogma, and that is not what Augustine stands accused of, even by his critics.

I also suggested that Augustine has been misunderstood by both defenders and critics. I'm concerned that your characterization of Augustine appears to be more based on secondary sources than what Augustine actually said. I am not aware that Augustine ever said that original sin completely destroyed freedom, for instance, or that and certainly the phrase "sin nature" that plays such a prominent role in your post is not Augustine's, nor is it the language of Catholic theology. In my experience, it is a phrase that Catholic theology is at pains to disavow.

Some of your other issues seem to me to be arguments about language rather than substance. For example, Augustine certainly taught that God was without passions, so the image of God's wrath (a biblical image in general, certainly) in exiling Adam and Eve from the garden is a metaphor. Augustine certainly held that Adam and Eve continued to be objects of God's mercy, and that God sent Jesus to save mankind precisely out of love for man. So I'm not sure there is really a fundamental theological quarrel here.

We've had lots of involved discussion on the exegetical and theological basis for the historic Christian teaching on hell. I don't see any need to revisit that at length.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it interesting that even though I am a member of a church with a theologically-conservative perspective on the scriptures, our church seems to be what Rachel Evans is looking for.

We affirm women in vocational an non-vocational ministry (ordained ministers, teachers, deacons, leaders, etc.), we deal with the hard questions in Sunday School and bible studies - I've actually been able to point out that King David was a user of women in a Bible study series I did where it seemed every week David was finding a new wife or concubine for his use without people getting bent out of shape about it. We deal with the rough edges of biblical characters as well as extend grace to those who come into our fellowship with history and baggage that is distinctly not approved by the evangelical subculture. We see people transformed by the gospel, but at their own pace and according to their convictions as we model what we believe to be a biblical lifestyle. At election time, our congregation gets strangely quiet about politics since we are about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. One thing we do agree on socially/politically is that the church needs to be active in helping the poor, the homeless, and the immigrants - and we have organized ministries to do that. And as we minister to the felt needs, we often earn the right to talk to those dear persons about the grace and mercy of God.

On the other hand, I don't know of another church in our region who is theologically conservative but has the same church culture and concern for the things that I believe that God cares most about. I have no idea where I would go if our church changed or somehow closed its doors. I would probably end up trying to start one with like-minded believers.

Strangely enough, our church was recently analyzed by a Southern Baptist expert and informed that we were "marginally unhealthy" as a church because we had a spectrum of theological and political views represented in the congregation. The "expert" believed that was a recipe for dissension. Strangely enough, it is actually a strength of the congregation since we don't rely on mutual affinities to keep us unified. We are unified by a common experience in Christ and our ability to respect our differences and learn from each other.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I find it interesting that even though I am a member of a church with a theologically-conservative perspective on the scriptures, our church seems to be what Rachel Evans is looking for.

We affirm women in vocational an non-vocational ministry (ordained ministers, teachers, deacons, leaders, etc.), we deal with the hard questions in Sunday School and bible studies - I've actually been able to point out that King David was a user of women in a Bible study series I did where it seemed every week David was finding a new wife or concubine for his use without people getting bent out of shape about it. We deal with the rough edges of biblical characters as well as extend grace to those who come into our fellowship with history and baggage that is distinctly not approved by the evangelical subculture. We see people transformed by the gospel, but at their own pace and according to their convictions as we model what we believe to be a biblical lifestyle. At election time, our congregation gets strangely quiet about politics since we are about evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. One thing we do agree on socially/politically is that the church needs to be active in helping the poor, the homeless, and the immigrants - and we have organized ministries to do that. And as we minister to the felt needs, we often earn the right to talk to those dear persons about the grace and mercy of God.

On the other hand, I don't know of another church in our region who is theologically conservative but has the same church culture and concern for the things that I believe that God cares most about. I have no idea where I would go if our church changed or somehow closed its doors. I would probably end up trying to start one with like-minded believers.

Strangely enough, our church was recently analyzed by a Southern Baptist expert and informed that we were "marginally unhealthy" as a church because we had a spectrum of theological and political views represented in the congregation. The "expert" believed that was a recipe for dissension. Strangely enough, it is actually a strength of the congregation since we don't rely on mutual affinities to keep us unified. We are unified by a common experience in Christ and our ability to respect our differences and learn from each other.

Amen to all that, Will. It sounds like a great church that, gasp, actually looks and behaves like the Church should. Good for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On the other hand, I don't know of another church in our region who is theologically conservative but has the same church culture and concern for the things that I believe that God cares most about. I have no idea where I would go if our church changed or somehow closed its doors.
This brings me back to an earlier point: open, inclusive churches like yours, are anomalies-- at least in evangelicalism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the other hand, I don't know of another church in our region who is theologically conservative but has the same church culture and concern for the things that I believe that God cares most about. I have no idea where I would go if our church changed or somehow closed its doors.
This brings me back to an earlier point: open, inclusive churches like yours, are anomalies-- at least in evangelicalism.

They're anomalies, but they're not impossibilities. I know of several churches in Columbus, Ohio that are similar to Will's church. I don't know how you find them in Miami. Unfortunately, there is no hotline for the National Council Of Theologically Conservative But Inclusive Churches. But I would encourage you to keep looking. Or move to Columbus or Dallas.

On second thought, don't move to Dallas. They apparently have at least one good church, but the traffic is terrible.

Edited by Andy Whitman

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They're anomalies, but they're not impossibilities. I know of several churches in Columbus, Ohio that are similar to Will's church. I don't know how you find them in Miami. Unfortunately, there is no hotline for the National Council Of Theologically Conservative But Inclusive Churches.

The only method I've found of finding a good church is to pray and suffer patiently until God brings you to one. Even so, it's only worked once for me so far. I hope it's enough to last for many years to come.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FWIW, i really appreciate the openness and insight here at A&F, represented on this thread and countless others over the years. It's still a great place to argue music and film and jump into occasional gentlemanly skirmishes about the spiritual life.

Had a long talk with the S.O. last night about church and she feels like she really needs to be in a place she can receive instruction on a regular basis. That sorta settles it, right? The search continues!!!

Edited by Greg P

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They're anomalies, but they're not impossibilities. I know of several churches in Columbus, Ohio that are similar to Will's church. I don't know how you find them in Miami. Unfortunately, there is no hotline for the National Council Of Theologically Conservative But Inclusive Churches.

The only method I've found of finding a good church is to pray and suffer patiently until God brings you to one. Even so, it's only worked once for me so far. I hope it's enough to last for many years to come.

God has a sense of humor (almost wrote "wicked sense of humor," but that would create a significant theological conundrum). I've written here about my 8-year sojourn as a member of a Jesus Freak commune in the inner city of Columbus. That merry band eventually morphed into a 10,000 member suburban megachurch, with a pastor who hangs out with Presidents. This wasn't exactly what I had signed up for, and my wife and I left many years ago, in part because of different visions over what the local church should look like, and in part because of more specific grievances over things like the Reaganite Prophecies (O my people, vote for Ronnie).

But we now find ourselves back in the inner city of Columbus, having raised our kids in suburbia, hanging out with many of the children of the Reaganite prophets. There were a few stops in between, but I can truly say that I would never, ever have anticipated being where we are. We were done with such nonsense, and good riddance. But God showed up. Decades of addictions, of wearing the happy/clappy Christian mask, of furtively hiding who I really was, dropped away, in part because of those kids and their fierce love of God, and my family, and me. They were inclusive enough to welcome a mess, and that's what I needed.

I don't know how or where you find those folks, Greg. I do know they're out there, in a variety of guises and garbs and theological traditions. Don't settle for anything less.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi again Steven.

Here are some further thoughts. I know that it's pretty much pointless for me to write this, as what I say doesn't really matter, and nobody's opinions are going to change. But I wrote it anyhow. B)

First. I realize from another post that you are fairly busy right now, so please do not feel that you need to respond to this post, and if you do want to, then feel free to respond when time allows. Also note that nothing of which I am saying is intended to be a personal insult, but merely an attempt to dig into the truth of the matter, albeit sometimes in an abrupt fashion. I am happy that one can talk on these subjects in a fairly non-aggressive manner.

You had said.

For precisely this reason, it is not historically credible that Augustine's views would have been regarded as "heretical" by earlier Fathers. Mistaken, one can argue, but not heretical, because heresy refers to denial of core dogma, and that is not what Augustine stands accused of, even by his critics.

Possibly not his critics in the Catholic church. But there are others that accuse him of heresy. I've spoken with them. There are increasing numbers of people who are outright rejecting Augustine's doctrines.

You had said.

I also suggested that Augustine has been misunderstood by both defenders and critics. I'm concerned that your characterization of Augustine appears to be more based on secondary sources than what Augustine actually said. I am not aware that Augustine ever said that original sin completely destroyed freedom, for instance, or that and certainly the phrase "sin nature" that plays such a prominent role in your post is not Augustine's.

I'm not aware of how Catholicism regards the term "sin nature". My use of this word wasn't directly related to Catholicism, but rather how Augustine's thought has influenced Christianity at large. The term sin nature is very much to be found in the Evangelical circles which I was a part of, and I believe that this term and way of thinking was historically influenced by Augustine. He didn't have to have used the term in order to have influenced it.

My point wasn't concerned with what words he used, but rather with this doctrine's influence on Western Christianity in general. I wasn't touching primarily on Roman Catholic beliefs.

I admit that you probably have a valid point, in that I have certainly read some writings about Augustine but have not read all his works in depth. I have read some of his writings however, including some of City of God, and to be honest, I find it to be dark twisted and disturbing. For example in my previous post, compare the quotes from the founding fathers on what happened during the fall, to Augustine's. His doctrine is clearly different and darker. The proofs in the pudding, and I don't need to read his writings extensively to see this.

His writing that I have read also clearly shows his lack of understanding of the original Greek languages, connected with Jerome's flaws in the Latin Vulgate. I've already spoken at length about his misunderstanding of the Koine Greek world aionos. But there are others.

For instance.

City of God - book 19 - chapter 28

But, on the other hand, they who do not belong to this city of God shall inherit eternal misery, which is also called the second death, because the soul shall then be separated from God its life, and therefore cannot be said to live, and the body shall be subjected to eternal pains........But in the world to come the pain continues that it may torment.

Book 13 - chapter 15

we are subject to the death of the body, not by the law of nature, by which God ordained no death for man, but by His righteous infliction on account of sin; for God, taking vengeance on sin, said to the man, in whom we all then were, “Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.”

Now. Compare Augustine's use of the words "vengeance" and "torments" with the earlier Greek and Biblical understanding, related to these words.

Clement of Alexandria (taken from "Her Gates Will Never be Shut" - page 121)

Clement's importance, to my mind, is that he clarifies the NT language for "punishment". Clement insists that God's "correction" (paideia - Heb 12:9) and "chastisement" (kolasis - Matt 25:46) is as a loving father, only an always meant for the healing and salvation of the whole world. He denies that God ever inflicts "punishment" (timoria - Heb 10:29 - vengeance) in the vengeful sense, a word Jesus never used.

As well, Strongs online concordance says this about the greek word "basanizo", which is often translated into the word "tormented".

Cognate: 931 básanos – originally, a black, silicon-based stone used as "a touchstone" to test the purity of precious metals (like silver and gold). See 928 (basaníz?).

[in the papyri, basanos also means, "touchstone," "test" (so P Oxy I. 58.25, ad 288).

931 (basanois) was "originally (from oriental origin) a touchstone; a 'Lydian stone' used for testing gold because pure gold rubbed on it left a peculiar mark. Then it was used for examination by torture.

Thus the Bible properly translated from it's original Koine Greek language says the following (taken from the Jonathan Mitchell New Testament)

Matthew 25: 46

"And so, these folks will be going off into an eonian (AIONOS) pruning (KOLASIS) (a lopping-off which last for an undetermined length of time; and age-lasting correction and rehabilitation; a pruning which brings betterment and which has its source and character in the Age; a cutting off during the ages), yet the fair and just folks who are in right relationship with people and are in accord with the Way pointed out [go off] into eonian life (life which has its source and character in the Age; life pertaining to the Age; or the life of and for the ages).

Revelation 20: 10

And so the devil, the one continuously deceiving them is cast into the lake of the Fire and Diety...... and they will be examined and test by the touchstone (BASANIZO) day and night, on into the ages (aionos) of the ages (aionos)

This is a far cry from the vengeful tormenting God that Augustine espoused.

As well, from what I've read of City of God it is noticeably lacking in any real or deep Biblical exegesis, and is in fact mostly philosophy with a few Biblical quotes thrown in. I find it troubling that various Christians have given us mountains of biblical exegesis that is contrary to City of God, but so many people are still bound to the thinking put forth in that book. I don't need to read it in it's entirety to get a gist of his thinking. Even the examples I have given you show this just fine, and prove how these segments of Augustinian thought differ from the Koine Greek speaking fathers, and the Biblein it's original languages.. The basics of his doctrine is well known to Christianity and I don't want to be grieved by this twisted darkness, of a tormenting God.... there are so many good deep studies of the scriptures out there and I'll stick to them.

By the way one of my Bishop friends has read more of Augustine than I have, and he passed along the following.

If you read Augustine's works you get the distinct impression that he was mentally ill. He was paranoid, extremely jealous of others and engaged in warped sexual fantasies. Were he alive today he would be considered a womanizer at best and a sexual pervert at worse. He wrote that an infant suckling on its mother's breast became sexually aroused and formed perverted thoughts. He recognized that he had urges that were difficult to control and so he developed this strict mantra in order to control himself. He would punish himself for having sexual thoughts (Edit: some believe that this was the beginning of flagellation in Christendom). And because he felt he couldn't control his thoughts and desires he formulated all mankind was this way and it must be something they were born with that originated with Adam.

I have read of modern day Psychologists who have said something very similar (in regards to him having psychological issues) about his book "Confessions"

You had said

"There is no question that belief in original sin, affecting all men from birth, has always belonged to historic Christian faith. In the thinking of the early Fathers, is because we are all born in sin that infants must be baptized. ........... that Orthodoxy and Catholicism disagree about original sin, especially Orthodoxy. In my view, Catholic teaching on original sin, as opposed to metaphors and imagery, is not basically opposed to what I find in Eastern theology".

The following is taken from the Orthodox Church in America's website.

“Concerning the original -- or "first" -- sin, that committed by Adam and Eve, Orthodoxy believes that, while everyone bears the consequences of the first sin, the foremost of which is death, only Adam and Eve are guilty of that sin. Roman Catholicism teaches that everyone bears not only the consequence, but also the guilt”

This is drastically different from the Augustinian understanding.

From Orthodox wiki.

In the Book of Genesis, Chapter 3, Adam and Eve committed a sin, the original sin. The Eastern Orthodox Church teaches that no one is guilty for the actual sin they committed but rather everyone inherits the consequences of this act; the foremost of this is physical death in this world. This is the reason why the original fathers of the Church over the centuries have preferred the term ancestral sin. The consequences and penalties of this ancestral act are transferred by means of natural heredity to the entire human race. Since every human is a descendant of Adam then 'no one is free from the implications of this sin' (which is human death) and that the only way to be freed from this is through baptism. While mortality is certainly a result of the Fall, along with this also what is termed "concupiscence" in the writings of St Augustine of Hippo -- this is the "evil impulse" of Judaism, and in Orthodoxy, we might say this is our "disordered passion." It isn't only that we are born in death, or in a state of distance from God, but also that we are born with disordered passion within us. Orthodoxy would not describe the human state as one of "total depravity"........

.........Orthodox Christians have usually understood Roman Catholicism as professing St. Augustine's teaching that everyone bears not only the consequence, but also the guilt, of Adam's sin..............This difference between the two Churches in their understanding of the original sin was one of the doctrinal reasons underlying the Catholic Church's declaration of its dogma of the Immaculate Conception in the 19th century, a dogma that is rejected by the Orthodox Church. However, contemporary Roman Catholic teaching is best explicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which includes this sentence: ""original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted"

This implies that even the Catholic Church is moving away from a full Augustinian teaching.

Taken from the following website.

http://www.orthocuban.com/2010/02/roman-catholic-and-orthodox-differences-on-original-sin/

In Eastern Orthodoxy, God created man perfect with free will and gave man a direction to follow. Man (Adam) and Woman (Eve) chose rather to disobey God by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, thus changing the “perfect” mode of existence of man to the “flawed” mode of existence of man. This flawed nature and all that has come from it is a result of that “original sin”. All humanity shares in the sin of Adam because like him, they are human. The union of humanity with divinity in Jesus Christ restored, in the Person of Christ, the mode of existence of humanity, so that those who are incorporated in him may participate in this mode of existence, be saved from sin and death, and be united to God in deification. Original sin is cleansed in humans through baptism.......

This view differs from the Roman Catholic (Augustinian) doctrine of Original Sin in that man is not seen as inherently guilty of the sin of Adam. According to the Orthodox, humanity inherited the consequences of that sin, not the guilt. The difference stems from Augustine’s interpretation of a Latin translation of Romans 5:12 to mean that through Adam all men sinned, whereas the Orthodox reading in Greek interpret it as meaning that all of humanity sins as part of the inheritance of flawed nature from Adam. The Orthodox Church does not teach that all are born deserving to go to hell, and Protestant doctrines such as Predeterminism that derive from the Augustinian understanding of original sin are not a part of Orthodox belief.

This position is consistent with that of the "Celtic Church" (the remnants of the Christianity which existed in the Celtic lands) which says,

"while humanity does bear the consequences of the original, or first sin, humanity does not bear the personal guilt associated with this sin. Adam and Eve are guilty of their willful action; but we bear the consequences of their act, the chief of which is death."

Other non Roman Churches such as the Coptic Church and Armenian Church reject this doctrine as well.

So then my question is this. If the Augustinian understanding of the Christian faith and "original sin" has always belonged to the Christian church then why does every ancient segment of Christianity outside of Roman Catholicism disagree with it? In fact, in the above writings the Eastern Orthodox make a point of mentioning that they disagree. specifically, with Augustine's understanding of original sin.

Which brings me to Tertullian. I believe that you are reading Tertullian through an Augustinian influenced lense, and that his understanding of the term "original sin" is in fact closer to the Eastern/Celtic views mentioned above. Just because he used the term "original sin" doesn't mean that he had the same understanding of this term as Augustine.

The following is taken from his treatise on Baptism.

CHAP. X.

......And so "the baptism of repentance" was dealt with as if it were a candidate for the remission and sanctification shortly about to follow in Christ: for in that John used to preach "baptism for the remission of sins," the declaration was made with reference to future remission; if it be true, (as it is,) that repentance is antecedent, remission subsequent;......

He makes a point of saying that repentance must come before remission of sins in baptism. We all know that a little baby is unable to repent. He later says the following.

CHAP. XVIII.

But they whose office it is, know that baptism is not rashly to be administered. .......And so, according to the circumstances and disposition, and even age, of each individual, the delay of baptism is preferable; principally, however, in the case of little children.

The Lord does indeed say, "Forbid them not to come unto me." Let them "come," then, while they are growing up; let them "come" while they are learning, while they are learning whither to come; let them become Christians when they have become able to know Christ. Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the "remission of sins?" ........

........Let them know how to "ask" for salvation, that you may seem (at least) to have given "to him that asketh."

This statement very clearly shows that Tertullian had a different understanding of Baptism than Augustine. He in fact taught that baptism should be delayed until little children have become able to know Christ, and until they know how to ask for salvation.

So then I would ask..... Why on earth would he say that if he thought that a tiny little baby was going to go to hell if he wasn't infant baptized for the remission of "original sin", according to the Augustinian understanding. This shows that Tertullian did not have the Augustinian understanding of "original sin".

So moving to Tertullian's treatise on the soul.

Chapter XVI.

But, inasmuch as the same Plato speaks of the rational element only as existing in the soul of God Himself, if we were to ascribe the irrational element likewise to the nature which our soul has received from God, then the irrational element will be equally derived from God, as being a natural production, because God is the author of nature. Now from the devil proceeds the incentive to sin. All sin, however, is irrational: therefore the irrational proceeds from the devil, from whom sin proceeds; and it is extraneous to God,

One sees here that Tertullian talks about about our soul receiving it's nature from God, and then says that the incentive to sin comes from the devil, from whom sin proceeds. Thus here he doesn't say that sin proceeds from something within humanity.

He then later touches on the fact that sin is not to be accounted as a natural disposition, but in fact is produced by the instigation of the old serpent (demons) in the passage you had mentioned. He does touch on the idea of the "irrational element" in the soul which probably was an influence on the Original sin doctrine to come.

XXI

. If, again, the evil of sin was developed in him, this must not be accounted as a natural disposition: it was rather produced by the instigation of the (old) serpent as far from being incidental to his nature as it was from being material in him, for we have already excluded belief in "Matter." [1640] Now, if neither the spiritual element, nor what the heretics call the material element, was properly inherent in him (since, if he had been created out of matter, the germ of evil must have been an integral part of his constitution), it remains that the one only original element of his nature was what is called the animal (the principle of vitality, the soul), which we maintain to be simple and uniform in its condition.

Now to look at this passage very closely. He then goes on to sat that the sin is far from being incidental to a persons nature, as it is from being material in him. In other words the sin is not part of human nature or a part of what is material in humanity (being an inherent part of humans material existence). He then says that they have exluded belief in matter. In other words they have denied belief in this.

He then says.

Now, if neither the spiritual element, nor what the heretics call the material element, was properly inherent in him (since, if he had been created out of matter, the germ of evil must have been an integral part of his constitution)

Here he says that neither the spiritual or material element was inherent to the human. In other words it wasn't existing as something permanent or essential to the human. Before he had said that, sin was as incidental to nature as it was from being material in the human, meaning that sin is not a part of human nature as connected with the "material element"..... and now he mentions that what the heretics call the "material element" was not inherent in the person.

So in other words the "material element" was wording that the heretics used, connected with the idea of sin being incidental (permanent or essential) to humanity. Tertullian and others have exluded (denied) this "belief in matter", and instead say that sin isn't counted as a natural disposition, but instead is produced by the instigation of the devil.

Now on to the next part of his writing found in brackets.

Now, if neither the spiritual element, nor what the heretics call the material element, was properly inherent in him (since, if he had been created out of matter, the germ of evil must have been an integral part of his constitution) it remains that the one only original element of his nature was what is called the animal (the principle of vitality, the soul), which we maintain to be simple and uniform in its condition.

He has already said that they have rejected matter.... as being linked to the "material element", which was connected to the heretics understanding of sin being incidental to humanity, and here he says why. Being that if they had been created out of said "matter", and therefore what the heretics call the "material element" was properly inherent in them, if so, (since if he had been created out of matter) the germ of evil must have been an integral part of the humans constitution.

Now to take out the bracketed part.

Now, if neither the spiritual element, nor what the heretics call the material element, was properly inherent in him . It remains that the one only original element of his nature was what is called the animal (the principle of vitality, the soul), which we maintain to be simple and uniform in its condition.

So he's saying here that if what the heretics called the "material element"* isn't properly inherent in the human then what remains is that the only original element of human nature is the principle of the vitality of the soul, which they maintain to be simple and uniform in it's condition.

* (the material element being the idea of sin being incidental to humanity, which is connected to "matter" and the germ of evil an integral part of human constitution),

In other words, to sum this up....he's saying that the heretics considered the "material element" as being connected to sin being inherent in human nature, but he thinks that sin is not part of human nature (as being connected with the "material element"), as this is because this would mean that the germ of evil must be a inherent part of his constitution. But Tertullian rejects that the germ of evil is part of the inherent part of human constitution, and says that the early Christians maintain that the original element of human nature is simple and uniform in it's condition.

This means that Tertullian thought that the heretics believed in the "material element" (the material element being the idea of sin being incidental to humanity, which is connected to "matter" and the germ of evil an integral part of human constitution),

Is not the "material element" very close to Augustine's understanding of "original sin"?

So now I've established that Tertullian believed that repentance must come before "regeneration" and encouraged that infants come to the place of knowing how to ask for salvation, and that he rejected any idea of sin being a part of human nature or the "germ of evil" being part of human constitution. So yes Tertullian's writings were very likely understood to be part of the developing doctrine of "original sin".

But he was far from teaching the Augustinian understanding of this term. Again it's impossible that he could have been teaching the Augustinian understanding because he firmly spoke against infant baptism.

Which leads me to your other quotes.

First.... keep in mind this bit from the Eastern Orthodox quote.

Since every human is a descendant of Adam then 'no one is free from the implications of this sin' (which is human death).

Also remember the quotes I had made in my earlier post, in regards to the early churches understanding of the fall. I'll again post a pertinent one.

In 180 AD Theophilus wrote:

Because of his disobedience, man extracted as from a fountain, labour, pain and grief. At last, he fell prey to death. God showed great kindness to man in this, for He did not allow him to remain in sin forever. Instead, by a kind of banishment, as it were, He cast man out of Paradise. God did this so that man could expiate his sin through punishment, within and appointed time. Having been disciplined, man could afterwards be restored .... (Theophilus to Autoclycus, Book 2, chap. 26)

So if one looks carefully at this Tertullian quote they will find that he is speaking under the early church understanding of mankind facing the consequences of Adams sin.

Chapter XL.

Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam.....

In the context of the above one can see that he is saying that every soul has it's nature in the consequences of what happened from the fall. Our nature is in the "implications of the sin" of Adam. In other words because we've inherited death, and a fallen world from Adam, since we were born our natures have been influenced by this, and we are thus under Adam's original influence on the world. Every soul has it's nature in Adam because every soul's nature is affected by God's corrective punishment on Adam. Granted that this statement could easily be confused with the Augustinian doctrine to come.

......moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration, and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame. ........ But what has the flesh alone, without the soul, ever done in operations of virtue, righteousness, endurance, or chastity? What absurdity, however, it is to attribute sin and crime to that substance to which you do not assign any good actions or character of its own!

Here there is no doubt that the soul is unclean because of sin, but this doesn't mean in the Augustinian understanding, because as I've shown, he didn't have that understanding.

So in context he is saying that the flesh has no inherent shame, but only when the sinful soul suffuses the flesh. He says that it is absurd to attribute sin to the flesh when it cannot have good actions or character. In other words the suffusion of sin is directly connected to ones action and character. Thus he is not saying that the flesh is born suffused with uncleaness, That would be contradictory to what I've talked about earlier where he rejected the "material element".

He then says.

Chapter XLI.

There is, then, besides the evil which supervenes on the soul from the intervention of the evil spirit, an antecedent, and in a certain sense natural, evil which arises from its corrupt origin.

So here when he talks about "corrupt origin". He can't have been thinking that we are born with a corrupt origin in the Augustinian understanding because that would be linked to the "material element" (the material element being the idea of sin being incidental to humanity, which is connected to "matter" and the germ of evil an integral part of human constitution), which he says they have rejected.

Instead he would be thinking of this idea of corrupt origin in the biblical understanding. being.

Romans 5: 12

Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through onto mankind, on which all sinned.

Later he says.

Still there is a portion of good in the soul, of that original, divine, and genuine good, which is its proper nature. For that which is derived from God is rather obscured than extinguished.

It is obvious here that he thinks that our original nature is genuine good, and that this genuine goodness is proper to the human being..... so therefore in the early part of the sentence, he couldn't have been saying that the "corrupt origin" is something that is passed down according to the Augustinian understanding of original sin.

He then goes on to some pieces which I have already mentioned, and moves to this.

It can be obscured, indeed, because it is not God; extinguished, however, it cannot be, because it comes from God. As therefore light, when intercepted by an opaque body, still remains, although it is not apparent, by reason of the interposition of so dense a body; so likewise the good in the soul, being weighed down by the evil, is, owing to the obscuring character thereof, either not seen at all, its light being wholly hidden, or else only a stray beam is there visible where it struggles through by an accidental outlet........Thus the divinity of the soul bursts forth in prophetic forecasts in consequence of its primeval good; and being conscious of its origin, it bears testimony to God

So here he is saying that what is good in the soul can be obscured, but not extinguished and at least somewhat of a light always remains, because it comes from God. He later talks about the divinity of the soul bursting forth in consequence of it's primeval good, and is conscious of it's origin. So here one sees that he's talking of the souls origin being in God..... he is not referring to the souls origin being in Adam. The souls origin is in God an thus is of primeval good. This primeval good can be obscured but not extinguished.

So if the "origin" he is talking about here is primevally good because of being in God, then the "corrupt origin" mentioned earlier can't have been in regards to an inherited evil from Adam, but must instead be in accordance to the Biblical understanding mentioned above.

I'll move on from Tertullian but first, I mentioned this conversation to one of my Bishop friends and here is part of his reply.

What did the Jews think about Original Sin? Well, they rejected it. In the Old Testament Jews believed that babies and children were not held accountable for their sins until they reached the age of accountability. See Isaiah 7:14-16,Nehemiah 10:28-29, and Jonah 4:11. As mentioned Tertullian subscribed to this belief as well writing about baptizing infants, "Why does the innocent period of life hasten to the remission of sins?"

Here he mentions the "innocent period of life". With this in mind Consider Matthew 18:3 where Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven”. Jesus seems to imply that children are pure and without sin, clearly contradicting Augustine who says children are born smeared with sin they inherited.

So I can see how Tertullian could be considered as being part of the progression into the Augustinian understanding of "original sin, in that he introduced the idea of traducianism, which quite likely was an influence on what would later become Augustinian thought. But he certainly did not have the same views as Augustine.

I fully admit that I might be a little off in my exegesis of Tertullian, but it is abundantly plain that his writing, especially his understanding of infant baptism, clearly argues against your statement that "There is no question that belief in original sin, affecting all men from birth, has always belonged to historic Christian faith. In the thinking of the early Fathers, is because we are all born in sin that infants must be baptized."

Now I could go on to quote from practically every one of the church fathers that at some point link baptism to repentance. But I'll touch on your quotes from Cyprian and Origen. First from my Bishop friend.

Now, some churches were baptizing infants before Augustine and there was division about whether you should do so. But, they weren't baptizing them because of Original Sin (Edit: in Augustine's understanding) as that doctrine had yet to come into being. They baptized them for the reason that nobody should be denied the right to be baptized. Cyprian sums this up when he wrote that nobody should be denied this divine gift. Paul had written that baptism took the place of circumcision and it is upon this thought that Cyprian and many others felt infants should be baptized. Others, as in the Apostolic Constitution, felt baptism was acceptable for children based on Jesus saying "allow the little children to come unto me and do not forbid them."

So, in instances where the church was baptizing infants and/or children it was done not because of the need to wash off Original Sin (Edit: in Augustine's understanding), but because it was seen as the Christian replacement for circumcision or because they felt that Christ commanded all to come unto Him and be baptized.

The Early Church Fathers knew nothing of the concept of Original Sin (Edit: in Augustine's understanding); that only came about in Augustine's era. Justin Martyr wrote in 160 AD that Adam put the "whole human race under a curse", in other words mankind was made to feel the consequences of Adam's act. Sin was not thought to be transferred in our genes or blood.

In 180 AD Theophilus wrote

"Because of his disobedience, man extracted, as from a fountain, labour, pain and grief (again speaking to the consequences). At last he fell prey to death. God showed great kindness to man in this, for He did not allow him to remain in sin forever. Instead, by a kind of banishment, as it were, He cast man out of Paradise. God did this so that man could expatriate his sin through punishment, within an appointed time. Having been disciplined, man could afterwards be restored."

Notice, how he speaks in terms of mankind being punished temporarily, not that because of Adam sin flowed through our genes and blood from generation to generation.

It's also worth saying that of the vast amount of founding fathers Origen, Cyprian, and Tertullian are, to my understanding, the only ones noted for having touched on the doctrine of "original sin" (or what was to become this doctrine). Yes there are a tonne of early Christians that talk about sin and corruption in mankind because of the fall, but they do not talk of the understanding that we inherit this sin and stained souls from our parents. In fact if Tertullian was the first Christian to come up with the idea of traducianism, then how is it possible for the Christians before him to even have the idea of inherited sin? They wouldn't have had the concept of the soul being passed to the child by the parents, and therefore would have had no means by which to understand any concept of original sin. Also why wouldn't Christ have passed on this concept to the apostles?

From one of my books.

In all the writings of the Apostolic Fathers the name of Adam occurs but once, and the Earthly Paradise and the fatal tree are not mentioned at all..... G Boas, Essays on Primitivism and Related Ideas in the Middle ages.

So then my question would be. If the Apostolic Fathers believed in the Augustinian understanding of original sin, then why wouldn't they be talking about something as important as an infants eternal destiny?

I realize that this doesn't go into depth on Cyprian's and Origen's quotes that you had mentioned. I have looked at what Tertullian said in depth and am simply going to quote from the following website as I move into my next point.

http://www.lavistachurchofchrist.org/LVarticles/InfantBaptism.htm

Taken from the website

The Catholic view is based upon the idea that babies are born in sin. Origen had written around the year A.D. 250: "Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. In the church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and according to the usage of the church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous" (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3). Pope Clement IV declared in 1267, that infants who die without baptism die in their original sins and are excluded from the vision of God. The doctrine of "Limbo," the intermediate state between the suffering in hell and the glory of heaven, was developed to satisfy grieving mothers whose children died without baptism........

.......Appeals have been made to the Scriptures to justify baptizing babies. One of the arguments that is made is the reference to baptizing "households.'

Acts 11:14: "and he shall speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household."



Acts 16:15: "and when she and her household had been baptized." 

Acts 16:33: "and he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household." 



Acts 18:8: "and Crispus, the leader of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his household." 



I Corinthians 1:16: "now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas."

Those who advocate infant baptism assume the word "household" includes babies. This is just that -- an assumption. The word household could include teenagers or even grown children. Some of these people, Lydia, Cornelius, and Crispus, were people of position and wealth. The word "household" could include servants. 



Those in the household are those who were able to hear words "by which you will be saved, you and your household" (Acts 11:14). Babies are not able to understand and accept the gospel of Christ.

"Crispus, the synagogue ruler, and his entire household believed in the Lord" (Acts 18:8). A baby cannot believe the preached word.

The household of Stephanas "devoted themselves to the service of the saints" (I Corinthians 16:15). Infants are incapable of such a task. 


My Bishop friend gave me the following response to those passages.

Notice again the scripture says they "believed" and then were baptized. Roman Catholics say that there must have been infants in the household and they too were baptized. The problem with this logic is that in Roman times the definition of household did not include infants and children because to the Romans they were essentially worthless since they couldn't do any work. The definition of household was expanded to include servants, who were ranked higher than children and wives for that matter.

The Gospels set out "believing" as a qualifier for being saved. Mark 16:16 says "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Again, how can an infant believe and then be baptized?

You see. The above biblical quotes are often used pertaining to infant baptism because they are the only Biblical passages that can be seen as coming at least within the ballpark of this doctrine. Yet the quotes themselves make absolutely no mention of infants, and in fact have language such as "repented", "believed", and "devoted" in them, which argue against infant baptism, as an infant is incapable of doing these things.

In other words.... Infant baptism in not once mentioned in the Bible, and therefore there is absolutely no scriptural basis for child baptism.

This moves me back to the quotes from Cyprian and Origen. They were but men. Even if they were speaking from an understanding of original sin similar to Augustine's (which I don't think they were), it doesn't matter because infant baptism is not mentioned in the Bible. Now I realize that an argument would be made that the understanding of child baptism would come from the church's "revelation" linked to it's tradition. But this brings up a very pertinent question. Wouldn't God have given some kind of indication of such a vitally important doctrine in the Bible?

Which brings me to one of my main points.

One cannot build a Christian doctrine as vitally important as connecting a little baby's eternal destiny with infant baptism, when infant baptism is never even mentioned in the Bible, especially when the Bible clearly and repeatedly says that regeneration during baptism is linked to repentance, and a little infant cannot repent.

To close this part of my post, my Bishop friend has said the following.

First, there is not a single instance of an infant baptism recorded in the New Testament. The apostles went about preaching for everybody to get baptized and there are many references to that happening, but all involve adults. In Acts 2:38 Peter preaches for the non believers to "repent and be baptized" and as in all the passages where people where baptized the scriptures say “they believed and were baptized”. You see over and over in Acts that a prerequisite that was set out to be baptized was that the candidate "believed" or became a believer. An infant lacks the capacity to make an expression of belief and their parents cannot do that for them.

Also. How is it even possible for someone to repent for another by proxy? That is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.

Now on to what the scripture says in regards to "original sin". First off. I've already mentioned how Romans 5 says nothing in regards to this, but merely that we've inherited death.

You had mentioned Romans 6: 3 which says.

.... whoever are baptized into Christ are baptized into his death? We, then, were entombed together with Him though baptism into death, that, even as Christ was roused from among the dead through the glory of the Father, thus we also should be walking in newness of life.

This scripture makes no mention of cleansing away "original sin" or of the need for infant baptism, but in fact it talks about baptism into death and being roused from among the dead into newness of life. Earlier on in Romans Paul has mentioned that we inherited death from the fall.

What I had shared is consistent with these scriptures. In the fall or humanity began having a problem with death..... in baptism we are are cleansed and given life. Our old humanity "being the man/woman who has become corrupted was crucified in order that the body of Sin (this corruption though our sins) may be nullified.

Moving on. There is no scripture in Genesis that even implies "original sin" in the Augustinian understanding.

In Genesis 3:22 God says “man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil…”. It never says that man sinned or inherited sin. Rather, expressed the concern that man had acquired knowledge and now knew the difference in good and evil and therefore had the capacity to sin.

In Genesis 8:21 after the flood God says “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth”. Notice it says man is evil not from birth, but from his youth. Why doesn't it say that "man was evil from his infancy", except that man is not born with sin in him, but becomes sinful from living in a sinful world. These influences happen as early as one's youth.

But the most powerful passages that speak directly to the point of whether or not we are born with sin in our DNA are these.

Ezekiel 18:4:“The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die”.

Ezekiel 18:20 speaks more directly to the point:

“The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity (some translations say sin) of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself”.

And Deuteronomy 24:16 says

“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin”.

These passages clearly speak directly against inherited sin. If the children can't be put to death for the fathers sin, or suffer the iniquity of the father, then how is it possible for us to have inherited sin and iniquity from our fathers, which is passed down from Adam..... the father of humanity?

You had mentioned Augustine contending with Pelagianism. Which brings up and interesting observation about the Augustine/ Pelagious debates. Everyone agrees that Pelagious (his real name was Morien) had radically different views than Augustine, and rejected Augustine's understanding of original sin.

Morien was tried several times before being declared a heretic.

In A.D. 415 He was brought before a council presided of by John of Jerusalem but the prosecution broke down.

He was later brough before a synod at Diospolis (Lydda)- 415 - with 14 Bishops attending - the synod found Pelagious not guilty of heresy

Pelagious was then tried again and declared guilty under Pope Innocent 1, but then Innocents successor pope Zosimus declared Pelagious innocent of heresy having studied his works.

He was eventually considered guilty after Augustine and his followers bypassed theological authority and brought the squabble before the emporer.

Now in writing this I'm not trying to argue whether or not Morien was a heretic, but simply to note the following. If Pelagious had radically different views on original sin than Augustine, and if many Bishops and a Pope found him to be innocent of heresy (at least at first), then this proves that the Christendom of this time was not universally of a full Augustinian viewpoint. If these Bishops and a Pope had have been fully aligned with Augustine's beliefs on original sin, then not a single one of them would have ever found Pelagious to be innocent. Yet they clearly did find him to be innocent of heresy several times.

With this in mind the following is worthwhile to view (between the 14 and 17 minute marks.

To close. The following is taken from Orthodoxwiki, and shows that the Catholic church itself has been in flux in it's understanding of original sin. Notice that it places this doctrine onto the time of Augustine and not before, and that it mentions that the early Greek fathers had a different understanding. It therefore also shows that the Eastern Orthodox do not view the doctrine to have always belonged to the ancient Christian faith, especially in the East where is still non-existent. This is also interesting in light of Origen's quote, as Origen was of course an Eastern Bishop.

In 2007, the Vatican approved a document called, The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized, see link below under Sources and further reading. This document is actually very helpful both in tracing the history of the doctrine of Original Sin within the Roman Catholic Church and in reading a reasonable summary of the teaching of the Greek Fathers. While the document deals with infants, nevertheless it must incorporate a doctrine and definition of Ancestral or Original Sin in order to talk about the salvation of infants. Among the helpful comments in the document are:

"Very few Greek Fathers dealt with the destiny of infants who die without Baptism because there was no controversy about this issue in the East. Furthermore, they had a different view of the present condition of humanity. For the Greek Fathers, as the consequence of Adam's sin, human beings inherited corruption, possibility, and mortality, from which they could be restored by a process of deification made possible through the redemptive work of Christ. The idea of an inheritance of sin or guilt - common in Western tradition - was foreign to this perspective, since in their view sin could only be a free, personal act. . ."

.......The Roman Catholic doctrine of Original Sin is harder to pin down because of the development and pendulum swings of its development. It is clear from the Vatican's own documents that Ancestral or Original Sin did include both the imputation of the guilt of Adam and Eve's sin and a widespread and deep-seated damage to the imagio dei, at least during a good part of its history. Thus the infant is worthy of punishment in hell according to both Saint Augustine and St. Gregory the Dialoguist. In the medievalists, this is ameliorated to a deprivation of the beatific vision, which is still considered a punishment, though the infant will only experience happiness. At the time of the Enlightenment, there is a return to a more Augustinian and Gregorian definition of Ancestral or Original Sin. But, by the time of Vatican Council I, the change is in full swing, and Ancestral or Original Sin begins to be seen as the deprivation of original holiness.

Edited by Attica

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is a great thread, and very timely to where I am in my own journey. I'm not going to attempt to parse the whole thing, but something Ryan said seems to sum up both the general gist of what RHE is getting at, as well as my own current leanings.

I'm not Orthodox or Catholic yet, mind you. I'm just a lifelong Protestant who has gradually come to the realization that Protestantism isn't quite as stable as he once thought it was. So, at this stage, I'm kind of homeless, untethered to any specific Christian tradition. But once you've abandoned Protestantism, you don't really have many options left open to you.

Exactly. I won't say I'm strictly homeless, as I've continued to attend churches everywhere I've gone, in an attempt to both submit myself to a Biblical structure of authority, as well as interact with a community setting, no matter how minuscule the presence of either the former or latter. But apart from a couple key church interactions, I have often felt homeless, and the feeling has only increased over time.

I agree that stability is at the core of this sentiment. I have recently been reflecting on my own church experience in my formative years growing up, and realized that almost every church I have attended since childhood experienced either a split or a damaging controversy. Some of you who have been here for a long time probably remember my posts here about an excruciatingly public pastoral scandal in a congregation which my family attended.

I have a friend who just converted to Catholicism a couple weeks ago over Easter. We met each other through an Anglican congregation we both attended, and quickly hit it off as we came from similarly stormy non-denom church backgrounds: Multiple splits, getting kicked out of—and shunned—by church communities (or as he called it, being subjected to the "scorched earth policy"). To both my friend and me, Anglicanism had become a sort of last safe haven for refugees from the evangelical wilderness, a place where the desire to find a sense of both trustworthy authority as well as real catholic (little "c") communion in a universal Protestant body were met. Unfortunately, soon after I moved out-of-state, the church went through a painful parting of ways with a staff member, mostly caused by miscommunication and misunderstandings, and caused a lot of long-time regulars to leave. The pain of experiencing the same inevitable outcome in what had seemed to be a place of stability and refuge, along with the recent schism between AMiA and its Rwandan oversight, pushed him over the edge into Catholicism.

I, like my friend, am starved for a sense of authority and commitment. I am tired of being cut off again and again by a historical practice (Protestantism) that is, as my friend would say, schismatic by its very origin (examine, for a moment, the etymology of the word "Protestant"). I have no problem admitting in complete frankness that I no longer attend any new protestant church without expecting that at some point, it will split, and communities will be irreparably driven apart. Perhaps even more importantly, I no longer have an intrinsic faith in the authority structures of most protestant churches. I expect that at some point, authority will fall apart and disorder will reign. I've seen it too many times to push the thought away anymore. I don't know if, as Ryan puts it above, I would personally say that I've yet abandoned Protestantism, but I certainly don't feel a great amount of goodwill or kinship toward it right now.

Personally, I have been dipping my toes fairly liberally in the Tiber as of late. A recent short stint in LA with a Catholic roommate provided for some fantastic discussion about Catholic practice and theology. While I haven't overcome all hurdles of Catholic theology, he helped lower the bar considerably on a number of issues. I've recently been on a literary diet of Thomas Merton and Hans Urs von Balthasar, and am just about to delve into John Henry Newman. I have been attending various Catholic services and seeking out Catholic perspective from friends who are already part of it (I've seen several friends convert). The more I explore and immerse myself, the more I see myself awakening inwardly to a Catholic sort of spirituality, which to me is a potential first step in eventually expressing my faith in an outward practice of a Catholic walk.

I don't feel inclined or even ready to make any unalterable decisions right now, but to my very burned out protestant soul, Catholicism seems refreshingly centered and (relatively) authoritatively stable. This is not to say I entertain grande delusions about some fictional lack of conflict in Catholicism. I look around me and I quickly see abuses and scandals, disagreements and arguments, and a vast theological continuum representing both the fringes of conservatism and liberalism. The difference is that seemingly, when faced with challenges, Catholic authority structures work it out as best as possible within the limits of the church. They don't just leave and go start again somewhere else. I'm not looking for people to be perfect or unrealistically upright. Church is an imperfect practice no matter how you look at it. But I want to know that I won't be left out in the cold anymore. When my former roommate and other Catholics call me to "come home", I can't deny that it highlights to me my own aforementioned feelings of nomadic homelessness, and causes the lights to shine even brighter on the front porch of Catholicism.

There are many other more positive reasons I'm curious about Catholicism, including everything from the intellectual and liturgical draw on my artistic and ideological sensibilities as a composer, to a very strange, powerful desire to partake in the eucharist whenever attending Catholic mass (obviously as-yet unfulfilled). Those things are perhaps for a different discussion, but there is a sense in which positive reasons for change can only emerge from a reaction to negative experiences. As Ryan said, there are few places for someone to turn when wick Protestantism flickers out for them. I can't bring myself to be an unchurched Christian; and so I'm beginning to be forced to look in places that heretofore have been off the map for me. I'm not home yet, and when I do arrive home it may or may not be within the bounds of Catholicism, but having been pushed out of my comfort zone to consider a wider world of spiritual thought has led me to believe I'm not as far away as I might have been before.

I am not particularly interested in choosing a community based on how well its beliefs match my own, but instead on how well it makes its claim to authenticity and authority. Whatever tradition I side with, I intend to submit my own theological notions to that tradition, even if it means the dismantling of the theology that I have very carefully constructed for myself. God demands submission of intellect as well as submission of conscience.

To your last sentence, yes yes yes. The rest of the paragraph is true to a certain extent for me. I'd put it this way: I'm willing to move out of my individualistic Protestant notions into a wider understanding of theology, as long as that understanding is still within the bounds of traditional Christian orthodoxy. For me, Catholicism is easily within those bounds, and in some senses, actually set them in their place to begin with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a Protestant who's following this discussion and appreciates the honesty contained within it, can I make a request of other Protestants in the thread? If you say you're growing weary of Protestantism, can you specify where you're attending, and if you've ever been a member? Can you let us know if you attend a confessional church, and whether there's any leadership system to which you're submitting? This isn't a litmus test, but as a Protestant church officer who takes my vows seriously, including being under the authority of a group of church leaders, I often wonder which disillusioned Protestants are disillusioned because of their local church leadership (on any level), and whether they've expressed their concerns to anyone in church leadership? We've all heard horror stories about that, but we don't hear many folks who leave a church and say, on their way out, yes, I discussed this with my church elders (or whoever constitutes leaders in your congregation).

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As a Protestant who's following this discussion and appreciates the honesty contained within it, can I make a request of other Protestants in the thread? If you say you're growing weary of Protestantism, can you specify where you're attending, and if you've ever been a member? Can you let us know if you attend a confessional church, and whether there's any leadership system to which you're submitting? This isn't a litmus test, but as a Protestant church officer who takes my vows seriously, including being under the authority of a group of church leaders, I often wonder which disillusioned Protestants are disillusioned because of their local church leadership (on any level), and whether they've expressed their concerns to anyone in church leadership? We've all heard horror stories about that, but we don't hear many folks who leave a church and say, on their way out, yes, I discussed this with my church elders (or whoever constitutes leaders in your congregation).

Well, no offense Christian, but when your elders are the ones putting a shun order on you and your family over menial issues of pettiness, you learn to move on to avoid further drawing of blood. When you are called to a secret meeting with elders and the senior pastor starts screaming at you and telling lies, you don't stick around and try to reason. I don't mean to be melodramatic, nor do I want to negate what sounds like a completely purposeful dedication in your own life to lasting vows, but I can't lie to myself or others about my own experience, both in my family growing up, and in my own adult life.

One of the biggest reasons I was initially drawn to Anglicanism, and am now drawn to Catholicism, is that there is somewhere to look upwards in authority beyond elders and executive church staff. No single parish is onto itself, bound to the rules set forth by a single person, or very few people. Too often have I been caught up in an autocratic congregation, in the cult of pastor-worship. To be perfectly honest, Christian, even taking a broader look at my church experience beyond local pastoral authority, every proper denomination in which I've participated has experienced a split (most recently AMiA and PCUSA). Authorities who decide to no longer recognize central authority end up becoming rulers onto themselves. I'm not saying there aren't legitimate reasons people want to leave their denominations. But such reasons don't legitimate church/denomination splits as a healthy practice. It's one of the fundamental problems of Protestantism to me, that authority structures never last, and by consequence trustworthiness is eroded little by little.

As to where I am attending, I am in between churches but currently go to an evangelical non-denom church that my siblings and parents attend for the time being, mostly because I know a couple families there. I'm moving in about 2-3 months, and am not going to set my feet anywhere solid until I land where I'm headed. The last church I regularly attended was an Anglican church in Boston, and I attended it for about 2 1/2 years. It was a mercifully conflict-free time, as it was just being planted when I first arrived, and was mostly up on its feet when I left Boston. Unfortunately, soon after I left it experienced some major upheavals, both in leadership, and with the AMiA split.

For me, I'm just feeling very weary of being blown about. I am sad for the multiple communities that I have been part of in the past, which either haven't lasted, or have seen irreparable damage between members because of conflict and lack of authoritative leadership. I just want some stability. I think I speak for a lot of people in my generation who come from a similar background to my own.

I think back to my experience attending an Episcopal church in Nashville, during the preamble to the first AMiA split off in 2004. During a parish meeting about the split, a long time member in his 50's stood up, and said with tears running down his face that he understood why people felt the need to protest the changes in the ECUSA, but was brokenhearted over the departure of nearly half the congregation, including several pastoral staff members, from a denomination to which he had committed decades of his life. That's a tragedy to me, no matter how wonderful AMiA might have been in those following years. And now, even AMiA hasn't really lasted. I won't claim to be in the same position as the above person, but I've seen schisms and irreconcilable differences too many times to not fear and expect them in any Protestant denomination.

Edited by Joel C

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, Joel. I'm sorry if I singled you out. Re-reading your previous post, I see that you said a lot about your background and current situation. I'm not trying to dig for dirt. I know that people get to a point where they're ready to look for a new church, and that the process takes time and can be painful. But in asking others about this, I find that people are often willing to discuss their problems with their local congregation to those outside those congregations rather than with those in a position to address the problems within the congregations. And although this is strictly anecdotal, I've gotten the sense in recent years that this tendency is growing.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience with your church leaders.

Edited by Christian

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0