help understanding a christian concept

Ok, given that my understanding of Christianity is pretty limited, I’m hoping that someone who knows their religion can help me understand this.
Given that:

  1. According to Christian tradition, humanity is tainted/corrupted by original sin
  2. Said corruption is so bad that the only way to counteract it is through God’s grace through the sacrifice of Christ, otherwise we would always be corrupt, and subsequently corrupt all we interact with.
  3. Christ was sacrificed, ergo (by my logic) the debt is paid, and theoretically we should no longer be “corrupt” (Christ died for our sins).

So what am I missing? Why (given the above) is it still considered that humanity is corrupt? If the only way to correct the error of original sin is through the grace of God, through the sacrifice of Christ, and this already happened, then how come we are still affected by original sin?

REALLY hoping someone can help with this one. Its been bugging me something fierce.

The dogma says that you have to accept the gift of Christ, and follow his teachings, in order to be absolved of your sins. It wasn’t a blanket redemption of your sins, but the opening of an avenue by which one could gain acceptance into Heaven.

Not that no one went to Heaven before Christ, just that each had to find their own path. Christ just built the superhighway to paradise, and his teachings are the on-ramp.

Short answer:

Christ’s death was a gift.

You have to accept the gift .

Allow me to point out that this is the prevalent view of Western Christianity (Catholicism and Protestantism), owing to St. Augustine of Hippo’s having maintained it against Pelagius. However, there exists a different view even there, based on the theology of Duns Scotus, and it has never been the view of Orthodoxy. (An explanation of their views, I must leave to Dogface or one of our other Orthodox or Eastern Catholics; I grasp it but not to the level of being able to explicate it well.)
There is also the point that God made us good, and original sin wars with that basic goodness within each individual, with mixed results varying from individual to individual/

Yes, but it can be philosophically difficult to exactly define this state named after the first (i.e., original) sin of Adam and Eve. For example, mainline Christians (i.e., non scriptural fundamentalists) realize that the story of Adam and Eve is a pre-historical explanation myth. Which leaves the concept’s origin rather shaky – if there really wasn’t a forbidden fruit in paradise, then how did we come to our sorry state? Even if you do posit the existence of Adam and Eve, how does their sin affect us? And if you don’t, how did we get into this mess?

The main point of the doctrine is that, regardless of how it happened, we human beings find ourselves in a state characterized by:
[list=1][li]We are prone to sin;[/li][li]Once we’ve reached the age of reason where we know the difference between right and wrong, we all eventually choose wrong at some point (which makes us responsible for the whole mess in some way);[/li][li]We are vulnerable in this word, we suffer, we die[/li][li]We are often the cause of our own suffering (to ourselves and others)[/li][li]The harm and evil we do can not be undone - we can not change history[/li][li]The harm and evil we do has an effect upon the world and all people – this is sometimes called social sin and its effect is social injustice. By harming others, we are encouraging them to harm us back, or to harm others – a vicious downward cycle.[/li][/list=1] Sad state, ain’t it? Not to mention existential issues of interior loneliness (we are alone in ourselves); the inability to save ourselves; the unquenchable need for meaning and complete contentment which we never attain to. This all leads to your second point…

**So, yes, we need God to help us out of this mess. The question is: will God just simply freely forgive and save us from all these things; or, is there a price to be paid?

The Apostles of Jesus preached that Jesus the Christ saves us from sin and death. And upon receiving the Holy Spirit, the new converts agreed. And so, through this encounter with Christ or his Spirit, the early Christians found salvation through Christ.

The people then said… Okay, great, um, how exactly does Jesus save us from sin and death?

And just as the philosophizing over the hows of original sin can be complicated, so, too, the how of Jesus’ procurement of salvation can all be complicated. For example which of these aspects of Jesus life is the moment of salvation for us?[list=1][li]incarnation[/li][li]life - teachings, example, miracles[/li][li]suffering[/li][li]death[/li][li]resurrection[/li][li]ascension into heaven[/li][li]pouring out of the Holy Spirit from heaven.[/li][/list=1] It was simple for humans to latch onto the suffering and death of Jesus as being a ‘price paid’ to God to ‘redeem’ us for the ‘debt’ we owed. This Redemption theology of salvation has been the most used and is often considered the ‘orthodox’ position. However, in scriptures, history, and especially in modern times, other explanations of how Christ ensures this experience of salvation have been offered. Their numbers and nuances are too much to go into here, but consider this alternative:

In Jesus’ story of the prodigal son, the prodigal son was welcomed back without any need for sacrifice or payment or punishment. So, why would Christians assume that Jesus’ sacrifice was a payment? Could it simply be a result of his unquestioning faithfulness to us and to the Father? To put it another way, if there was no original sin, would there still be an incarnation?

** When Christians say they are saved, yes, it can sound very past tense-y, as if the salvation has been completed. But, in fact, the salvation has only begun and will not be completed unitl one’s personal resurrection. The religious language of ‘being saved’ indicates a complete trust that the salvation will most definitely be accomplished.

It would be like hitting the lottery, and before one is actually paid, saying, “I am a millionaire,” when technically, one should say, “I’m going to be a millionaire.”

And so, while still the vulnerable creatures in this world, we are still tempted, still prone to sin, to suffer, to die. However, through the presence of the Spirit of Christ, we are already forgiven, already reconciled to God, already bound for glory, Amen!

Sorry, got carried away.


So if some pre-Christian people did, in fact, find their own (non-Christian) paths to Heaven, wouldn’t that same possibility apply to today’s non-Christians? Or was the superhighway paved over all the old trails?

To me, that completely explains the rest. Christ could not have washed away original sin for everyone for all time, because each person still has to struggle with their choices between good and evil.

Presumably, if one accepts Christ, one has promised to follow his precepts, and if one truly tries to do so, the path to Heaven is assured (i.e., the original sin is forgiven).

But if one doesn’t accept Christ and doesn’t try to do good, then we’re back where we started.

Actually, as I read back over that, I can see why the whole “forgiveness of original sin” doctrine is so silly. And why the Catholic Church has had to go through so many contortions (such as infant baptism and whether or not Limbo exists) to deal with the “death of innocents”.

Or, as panache45 said,

I think, based on “no one comes to the Father but through me”, that the answer is “yes”, and there is no option any more of just fighting the temptation to evil and doing good without accepting Christ. (“Sorry, y’all pagans, Jews, Muslims, atheists, whatever…”)


Oh. Sorry. Just had a little “aha” moment there.

Well, I guess I won’t dabble in theology so thoughtlessly again.

(Cross my fingers…)

If the nature of man is mortal, then the ultimate fate of a man must be death. All mortal things end. It is only the nature of God that is immortal. And for a man, there is no way to become immortal other than to seek God, and from Him, gain that gift.

So, God gave us His son. God became man, to lift man beyond his own nature. That makes it possible to become immortal. What you are by yourself will pass away, as all things do that are of the world. What is given to God, goes on. Sin is that which turns us away from the love of God.

Love is what makes it happen. Love God, love all his children, and yourself. Sin can turn you from God, but it does not turn God away from you. He is greater than sin. You can deny Him, but you cannot flee from Him. And He will come to you. Perhaps hungry, or cold, or seeming lost. Treat every child of God as if this were the Lord of Creation. One day, it will be.


Triskadecamus, I like that. Mainly, I feel good when I read it.

It has the problem, though, that it appears that none of the saintly folks who lived before Christ could get to Heaven (although maybe they were grandfathered in).

Also, and a bigger problem, is what happens to those who, since the time of Christ, never heard of him and had a chance to be saved.

An “exclusivist” Christian would have to add something to your idyll:

“Love is what makes it happen. Love God, love all his children, and yourself.” …and accept Christ.

Because if I happen to live a loving life and love Allah but don’t see the divinity of Christ, then I’m lost.

Or am I wrong about that?

Fundamentalists use that quote from the Gospel of John to claim that without an explicit profession of faith in Jesus as Christ and savior, no one can ‘go to heaven.’

Of course, they forget that Jesus tells a story of Abraham in paradise, appears with Elijah and Moses, and engages in discussion about resurrection without adding, “of course, unless you believe in me, there won’t be any resurrection for you.” Obviously Jesus held that there was resurrection for those who lived before him, and for anyone who helps ‘the least of your brothers or sisters.’

The RCC (the largest Christian denomination) holds that there can be salvation for those who do not have an explicit faith in Jesus Christ. And here, ‘explicit’ is the key word. The salvific mercy of Christ is for all people, whether they are aware that it is through Christ that God’s mercy is offered.

I use a bridge metaphor: Jesus is the bridge to heaven. Christians can see the bridge for what it is and boldy walk across it. Others may be blinded to the true nature of the bridge, but that doesn’t keep them from stumbling across it.