Gospel Theology (Pt. 3) – Original Sin

Today we continue our series on “Gospel” or “Evangelical” theology, that is theology that flows out of the truths of the gospel. Last time I said that there certain key doctrines that are decided by or settled on or strengthened by the gospel. Some doctrines are the logical consequence of the gospel, one such doctrine is the doctrine of original sin.

What is Original Sin?

Briefly, what is the doctrine of Original Sin. Well in church history the term has been used in a pretty muddy and sloppy way. First off it has been used to refer to the original sin, that is the sin that Adam and Eve committed in the garden (Augustine calls this peccatum originale originans). It has also been used to refer to the condition of sin in humankind caused (somehow) by the transmission of Adam and Eve’s sin to all (this is to be distinguished from original guilt). The Augustine calls this latter “original sin” peccatum originale originatum. Its this second understanding of Original Sin that we are concerned with, the sin that is inherent by all of us sons and daughters of Adam.

Original Sin and the Gospel

Now what I am about say about orignial sin  will certainly be controversial but I am going to say it anyway.  I believe that the doctrine of original is found in the Bible. (That is not controversial) Here is the controversial part,

I believe that the strongest case for the doctrine of original sin is that it is a logical consequence of the gospel.

In our day people are quick to dismiss the doctrine of original sin as something that is archaic or too pessimistic. Yet the doctrine of original sin is a doctrine that we can’t easily throw away or dismiss. Without this doctrine, the gospel become nonsense. What happens to the gospel when the doctrine of original sin is discarded? Well the gospel loses all meaning and purpose.

Tatha Wiley, a theology professor who teaches in Minnesota sheds some light as to why this doctrine flows out of the gospel:

The idea of original sin first arose as an answer to the very question of redemption. For the early church theologians, the burning question was not about the character of evil but of the need of Christ. What they asked, makes Christ’s redemption universal? Why do all persons need Christ’s grace and forgiveness? The emergence and development of a theology of original sin are one response. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, humankind is sinful. All then, are in need of Christ’s redemption. (OS)

She explains that Original Sin is necessitated by the gospel. The gospel is our starting point for theologizing about sin. Its pretty clear from the gospel that Christ died for the redemption of humanity. Those humans cannot redeem themselves, all humans are incapable of doing that, hence all humans need Christ’s atoning death. Now the question is, why do all humans need to Christ’s death to rescue them? Why are all humans incapable of saving themselves? The answer is that there is something fundamentally wrong with us humans, we call that original sin.

The Logic of Original Sin and the Gospel

Here is the “logic” behind the doctrine:

  • Claim: All humans need to appropriate Christ’s atoning death
  • Question: Why do all need Christ’s death?
  • Answer: All have original sin

Hence the doctrine of original sin flows out of the gospel.

Next time we will take a look at the rather obscure doctrine of dyothelitism.


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

5 thoughts on “Gospel Theology (Pt. 3) – Original Sin

  1. The concept of Original Sin is the result of the dogma of “creatio ex nihilo” or created out of nothing. This in turn, was a way of the Orthodox Church dealing with the problem of where evil came from. The logic went something like this: Man was a sinner(evil). God created man. In the beginning, all there was was God. So the only way to avoid saying that evil came from God was to declare that man was created out of nothing. When you really think about it, it’s so incongruous for a “something before anything” to create everything out of nothing. Needless to say, the disciples did not believe in such nonsense.

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