This letter was published in Reform, in response to another letter attacking the doctrine of original sin.
5 October 1993
Fancy Gordon Harris (Reform, October 1993) wanting to replace the doctrine of 'original sin' with 'original blessing'! What a confusion! The doctrine of original sin does not say that mankind was originally created sinful: it says that mankind was originally created good ('very good') and subsequently fell from that state. Hence sin is not an integral part of what makes us human, and we can have hope that our current sorry state can be changed. The doctrine of redemption says: firstly, sin and its consequences can be removed from our lives; and secondly, we can be brought to a state of greater blessing than that which we ('in Adam') fell from. I do not find this pessimistic in the least!
Original sin has nothing to do with sex, except that the process of procreation produces a new generation which is just as sinful as the previous one. Sin is transmitted to the next generation more reliably than good looks or strong arms. It hardly seems fair to knock poor Augustine for not having a good understanding of genetics: like most preachers, he was trying to communicate a scriptural truth in the thought forms and language of his day.
The problem seems to be that some people do not wish to believe there is something wrong with each one of us which needs to be put right. They admit that we sin, but not that we are sinful. But if we are not sinful by nature, why do we sin? And if sin is simply about what we do, and not what we are, we have no need for redemption, only for forgiveness. Redemption says that what you are can be changed and restored, made better than ever before. I am optimistic enough to believe in redemption, and very grateful that Jesus made it possible.