Question: Is the concept of "original sin" part of all Christian theology?

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Question: Is the concept of "original sin" part of all Christian theology?

Original sin is not part of all Christian theology

Many western Christians assume that "original sin" is a core part of Christian theology. While this may be true for theologies descended from Augustine's innovation, it is not true of Christianity as a whole.

For example, the Eastern Orthodox have quite a different view:

“In the Eastern patristic tradition …this experience is different from the Western, more legalistic, post-Augustinian, medieval conception of ‘original sin’ which makes every human guilty of the sin committed by Adam in paradise” (471). In the Eastern tradition “salvation is not only a liberation from death and sin; it is also the restoration of the original human destiny, which consists in being the ‘image of God’…. Humanity finds its ultimate destiny in communion with God, that is, in theosis, or deification” (472). [1]

And:

“The East did not accept Augustine’s notion of original sin and saw its consequence not as guilt but as mortality. Guilt is only acquitted through the personal exercise of the free will, through personal sin” (356). [2]

Other denominations also rejected Augustine's alteration to the doctrine. This author is a Mennonite theologian:

“Anabaptists insisted that Jesus’ atonement had canceled Original Sin’s guilt and restored children everywhere to an initial state of grace. Infant baptism, then, was no longer needed to wash away this sin. Anabaptists thus viewed humankind not as a massa perditionis but as initially graced” (86). [3]

Notes

  1. John Meyendorff, “Theosis in the Eastern Christian Tradition,” in Christian Spirituality III: Post Reformation and Modern, edited by Louis Dupre and Don Saliers, (New York, 1989), 470-476.
  2. Paul Meyendorff, “Liturgy and Spirituality I: Eastern Liturgical Theology”, in Christian Spirituality I: Origins, ed. B. McGinn and J. Meyendorff, New York 1985: 350-363.
  3. Thomas Finger, “Anabaptism and Eastern Orthodoxy: Some Unexpected Similarities,’ Journal of Ecumenical Studies 31 (1994): 67-91.