A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin

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So if you give up the historical interpretation, do you also give that up?

St Augustine - John Piper

I actually had some speculation about this in a draft of this post, but it was already getting too long. However, if one does honestly regard this as implausible, Christian Neoplatonist views never had to put much emphasis on historicity, and they had no problems with safeguarding the idea that human nature does not itself involve sinfulness; they have an embarrassment of riches for handling it, actually.

There were things that were considered widely essentially, but that left a lot of room for different views on all sorts of features of the doctrine. I find both arguments unconvincing. Brandon: I agree with you about the minimal requirements of a historical interpretation. And that is quite weak; it can be guaranteed that for any such elements there is some analysis involving assumptions that do make it consistent with any particular body of observations, measurements, and inferences in natural history that can be chosen.

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Skip to content. I think his position can be fairly summarized by this passage: The account of the original sin in Genesis 3 teaches us a lot about the state of human nature, our freedom to know right from wrong, and our proclivity to not necessarily trust God.

“A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin” by Tony Jones | Wild Goose Chase

Like this: Like Loading February 14, at am Reply. For instance: The experience of sin is the knowledge of a radical incompleteness and an insatiable longing. February 14, at pm Reply. February 15, at am Reply. February 15, at pm. February 16, at am. February 16, at pm Reply.

Books on atonement theories. Much much appreciated. Disciples of Christ. Jewish - Torah im Derech Eretz.

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Terms Content policy Privacy policy Mod policy. The world that love founds becomes the finite world of separation of subject from object, of the limited capacities of labor and production in a world that is inevitably unjust and, equally inevitably, decays. Even the most beloved child grows up. We might try to extend the innocence of child-hood, but we cannot do so indefinitely.

The child rebels and, with that, breaks apart the complete world of the romantic family. Becoming a unique subject, the child is overwhelmed by a world that is not his own. He now faces that same task of refounding that world on the basis of love.


Kahn explains the doctrine, and its mythic origins, as a reflection of the most fundamental statements and insights about human life: In other words as an actual genesis of a or the concept of the human. However, if you choose to analyze the myth in this way, then you reach a point where the doctrine, in its very profundity, leaves the particularity of Christianity behind and can be compared to the in theory radically different Judaic and Islamic doctrines in such a way that meaningful differences disappear.

The very insistence on those differences can begin to look like a reflection of the same inherently sinful condition.

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One thing that Christian theologians have struggled to do not always successfully is distinguish sinfulness from finitude as such. So, for example, limited capabilities would be a mark of finitude but not sin. You can see this as, among other things, an implication of orthodox Christology: Jesus was, or so Christians believe, both fully human and sinless.

The theologians can be forgiven their failures, as they are only limited human beings like us. Sinfulness v finitude as regards the human condition replicates the same questions we have on the nature of God, God as willful being vs God as cosmic all, being of being, etc. As for Jesus Christ and the human condition, in this relationship he stands as the absolutely typical absolutely exceptional exception.

Seen as free agent, Christ unlike us does not succumb to sin.

In defense of Original Sin

He is praiseworthy to the same extent that our sins our truly sinful, not merely bad but in some manner partaking of evil. My own view is that all traditions want to have their cake and transsubstantiate it, too, which is also another way of describing what both stories are and are about. I think a problem with the sort of approach taken by Jones is that the traditional doctrine of original sin is not as identifiable with the Augustinian reading of Romans 5 as it assumes.

Even Augustine, contrary to popular belief, does not make it the linchpin of his argument — it only occasionally comes up in the anti-Pelagian writings, for instance, and when it does it is rarely the only thing to which Augustine appeals in order to make a point. The reason this particular reading of this particular passage seems to have become important is merely that it happens to bring together a lot of the important issues in a way that can be laid out fairly easily — that is, it is the simplicity it gives to prior concerns related to original sin that account for the importance of the reading, rather than the reading accounting for the importance of original sin.

I guess the question or at least a question is: what happens if the historical interpretation is no longer tenable? So if you give up the historical interpretation, do you also give that up?