‘Mea culpa’ – L. my fault. Where does sin originate and what can be done about it? To trace the antecedents of sin we have to go back to the time of the Fall in Genesis. Adam and Eve’s sin lies in unbelief towards God, the pride of the creature over the Creator and the act of disobedience (Gen. 3:1-6). Adam’s sin has been passed down to all his progeny throughout all the generations of human history. St. Augustine in discussions with a British monk called Pelagius concerning free-will, disagreed with Pelagius’ understanding that humanity had the power and will to do good, instead our free-will is not just incapacitated and corrupted, but delights in evil.
St. Augustine proposed that there are Four States of Being that humans can exist in. 1) Adam and Eve were created in a state of original innocence they were able to sin, able to not sin. 2) But through the Fall, Adam and Eve were able to sin, unable to not sin. 3) When a person becomes a Christian, he is able to sin, able to not sin. 4) In the glorified state of perfection (after the resurrection) we will be able to not sin, unable to sin. Although it seems like bad grammar, it is good theology!
Pelagius failed to understand the power of sin to completely overwhelm and subjugate the will of man. St. Augustine insisted that we are wholly dependent on God’s intervention to rescue us from our sinful state. It is the acceptance of Christ’s righteousness through the act of belief, the humbling of the creature in repentance and the acts of obedience following, that reverse the effects of the Fall. Pelagius’ theology resonates with contemporary Britain i.e. that sin is a minor aberration, something that is disagreeable but with a little help from God is no big deal. St. Augustine strongly disagrees, sin is a complete disaster and without God’s help we will be destroyed.