Here is the golden text on which the doctrine of original sin is based.
Paul argues that as sin came into the world through Adam, tainting us all, so this tragic state of affairs is reversed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (the second Adam). This is the result of all surrounding grace, the eternally benevolent disposition of an unconditionally loving Creator who is finally revealed in the acts of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.
The problem with the doctrine of original sin is found in the accretions that have grown around Paul’s argument. The taint of sin became our core identity and our focus. It seemed almost impossible to get to an apprehension of grace because of this inherent shame, a distortion of the image of God into which we are called to grow. If we look around, there is certainly enough evidence in a world filled with violence, cruelty and greed to keep us wallowing in a mire of hopelessness.
While Paul’s argument in Romans is one of the most systematic expressions of his thought, I am not sure he was aware that he was writing a textbook in which selected passages would be deemed to be the sum total of the extrapolations that would become dominant Christian theology in the West. The theology of the Eastern churches (the various Byzantine and Oriental orthodox jurisdictions) have a much more balanced focus based on the doctrine of “theosis”, a full hearted embrace of the grace that opens the way to human, indeed the whole of creation’s, fulfillment in appropriating the purpose for which we were created.
This too, is found elsewhere in Paul’s correspondence with the fledgling churches in the lands surrounding the Mediterranean.
So, what is an appropriate response to this text on our Lenten journey, the season of penitence and reflection?
Acknowledge and own our sin (missing the mark), for sure, but don’t exacerbate it by wallowing in it.
Remember to what it is that grace calls us, again from the Apostle Paul: And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)