Advent Firesiders

Unoriginal Sin (2019)

Every time I sing Adam Lay Y’Bounden I cannot help but ponder the classic Christian sequence of creation, Fall, Incarnation, Crucifixion and Ascension, always settling on the first three in the sequence as the carol demands.

The story of Creation and Fall in Genesis 1; 2; 3, apart from the different accounts in Chapters One and Two, presents us with some difficult interpretive problems in Chapter 3: Why did God make the serpent, and make it so plausible (Genesis 3.1)? Were we really created to operate as 'angels' without free will, unable to love God through choice (Genesis 3.6)? Was the serpent right when it said that Eve would not die if she ate the fruit or was the author making a deeper point about the connectivity between sin and death (Genesis 3.4)? And, most critically, what was the actual consequence of the disobedience of Adam and Eve as representatives of humanity (Genesis 3.13-24)? The answer to that final question is specifically answered in Genesis 3.23 where God 'explains' why he is expelling Adam and Eve because, he says, he accepts that they have acquired the knowledge of the difference between good  and evil, making them in some way like himself, but he does not want them to get close to the tree of life. Further, he resents the serpent's intervention but says nothing about the disobedience making Adam and Eve, let alone all humanity, fundamentally evil. God does not say that the disobedience means that Adam and Eve now have a fundamental 'original' sin which they will pass on to their children. Nor, incidentally, does God say that this 'sin' stains their souls. All he is interested in is getting their bodies  away from the Tree of Life.

The only possible reference to Saint Augustine's neo-Platonic concept of original sin in the whole of Scripture appears in The Wisdom of Solomon 2.23-4 which, of course, is not accepted as Biblical by the very people who most loudly proclaim the fundamental wickedness of humanity.

I have to say that I can manage Incarnation without it being in the fall/redemption sandwich because I grant that we required the Incarnation and then the Crucifixion in order to separate the exercise of free will from its mortal consequences; it wasn't our fault, after all, that we were created to exercise free will, so as God made us flawed it was his responsibility, in Jesus, to fix the flaw. In any case, no matter how complex it is to link Incarnation and Crucifixion, no preacher will go near this on Christmas Day as if we should all be satisfied with biographies of great people that concentrate entirely on birth.