Is St. Augustine's Original Sin Argument False?


I found this article Stump a Scholar: John H. Walton on Original Sin interesting. I’ll share an audience Q and A from the article:

Next week’s question:


Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

1 Cor 15:21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

St. Augustine gets too much credit. The doctrine of original sin is Pauline.


We need to understand Augustine’s position on original sin before we can answer the the question in the title of this post.
As I undertand it, Augustine taught that Adam transmitted sin itself to his descendants, not merely the tendency to sin.Thus we are responsible for Adam’s sin since were were all “in his loins” at the time.

I agree that the tendency has been transmitted through Adam to his descendents. But I disagree with the position that the sin itself was transmitted.
Therefore I pronounce Augustine’s position to have been false.


We also might want to consider that there is a difference between “Original Sin” and ‘Original Guilt’.
We don’t share imo Adam’s GUILT. That would make no sense at all.
Do we receive, like a disease that affects all parts of us to some extent, passed on by Adam, i.e., ‘Original Sin’ - I think Paul does teach that.


My own tradition (Eastern Orthodoxy) basically ignores Augustine. His writings play no part in our liturgical theology. I don’t think he’s even mentioned in the liturgy, though his mother (St. Monica) is.


Paul’s understanding of Adam’s role in Romans 5 is much debated, but I perceive that his real point focuses on the superior significance of Christ, and the only crucial thing concerning Adam is that humanity universally faces the challenge of our sin. I agree with Walton that Genesis was not attempting to explain the origin of sin or death, and I perceive that Adam as an archetype illustrates the universal problem that our finite nature faces, more than that he caused or historically explains how we came to have an egotistic nature that is so inclined to sin.


The idea that God condemned all of humankind because of Adam and Eve’s sin is a false doctrine which is corrected by Ezekiel chapter 18 verses
1-18. God holds each of us accountable for our own sin.
Besides, Genesis 3:21 says this: Also for Adam and his wife, the Lord God made tunics of skin and clothed them. Here God forgives Adam and Eve and renews them in His word. Whether the story be true or not, Adam and Eve should be given credit for bringing God’s true word out of the garden and passing it on to their children.
I posted some additional comments about the story under Biblical Theology- The Garden of Eden, if you would like to read them and see what you think.


While God holds each individual accountable for their response to the propensity to sin, according to the law written upon their hearts(the imprint of the divine nature- the Lamb slain), and the alternative to chose righteousness…

Ro 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because** what may be known of God is manifest in them**, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse

Ro 2:6 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by** patient continuance in doing good seek for** glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11 For there is no partiality with God.

12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

…(imo) the propensity for sin is genetically locked in through Adam, and each and every one has at sometime made that archetypal choice, affirming their heritage in the first man, engendering death, except for Jesus the Messiah, who made a righteous choice(a faithful sacrifice rather than sin).

Acts 3 Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

So in the first man, Adam, all have chosen sin, affirming their heritage, and are individually accountable for it, and in the second man Christ, all have chosen righteousness(repentence, contrition, forgiveness, faith) and are individually justified by Him, becoming part of the corporate new man, His heritage(many sons unto glory).

So original sin is(imo) not necessarily false doctrine, as with so many doctrines- depending on the individual understanding and scope of application.

The only deed that will satisfy the righteousness of God is a broken and a contrite heart(repentence and faith before the Lordship of Jesus)- the rest springs forth from there.


Those who never heard or saw Christ crucified, nevertheless had that imprint in their heart…

" because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes,** His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen**, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse"

God who knows the secrets of men’s hearts, will judge them by their response…

for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15** in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them**, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

That imprint in their conscience Paul spoke of in Romans 1:19,20- is the image of Christ- which is what the divine nature IS…

“And He is the radiance of His glory and** the exact representation of His nature**, and upholds all things by the word of His power” Heb 1:1-3

…so that whether they were before the advent or never heard the gospel, God who sees in secret will reward them openly, for “patient continuance in doing good”.

imo such as these will instantly bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father on the day, the parable known as “the Good Samaritan” being an illustration of this principle, “I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me…enter the joy of your Lord”.

2 cents


From what I understand, the path to righteousness is believing in God, loving Him, and following His word. As you mentioned, this can happen in various ways. It is the same today as it was in the past.

Genesis 6:9 Noah was a just man, perfect in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Genesis 17:1 The Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, I am Almighty God, walk before Me and be blameless.

Deuteronomy 9:16 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God ,to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Psalms 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart and saves such as have a contrite spirit.

According to Matthew 12 :36-37 we are each still held accountable for our own sin.
"But I say to you that for every idle word men speak, they will give account of it on the day of judgment. For by your words you will justified, and by your words you will be condemned.


Yes, thats true. Yet, these are the records of the faithful of the lineage of Christ, Noah, Abraham, David… But through all those centuries there were multitudes of people all over the world. During the first 100 years after Christ multitudes died having never heard the gospel, and since then multitudes have died having never heard the gospel.

imo Romans 1 & 2 provide some insight into how the Lord will judge them on the Day when all the dead both great and small stand before the Great White Throne.


Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

I’ve heard this verse explained in different ways. Here are just a few:
1.We inherited sin from Adam(a gene?) and because of this none were considered righteous according to God.
2.This is why we grow old and die physically. If Adam hadn’t sinned, our physical bodies would never die.
3.Because of Adam’s sin, God barred us from eternal life.

To me, none of these explanations are true. I think a lot of people are confused by this.
Even though Adam is portrayed as one man in the Eden story, I believe the original meaning is mankind.

  1. Righteousness is loving God and following His word. Adam and Eve returned to God after the fall, and there were probably many others who followed.
    2.Sin can cause physical death in many ways, especially when men war amongst one another.
  2. I believe that the gates of heaven have always been open for those who love God.


Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

It says sin entered the world not necessarily to each man individually. Sometimes Psalm 51 where David says he was a sinner in his mother’s womb is used but his mother may have been a prostitute and he might have been referencing that or he may have been lamenting over the fact he caused Uriah’s death.


Doesn’t this whole topic seem a bit silly? Unless someone is telling me that it is possible for one to be born and never sin… Then the entire debate is such a waste of time. For what does it matter if ‘A’ comes before ‘B’ or ‘B’ comes before ‘A’ if, in the end, they both = C? Now, let’s say such a person says that we can live life without sinning even once… To such a person who believes that, I ask: What was the reason for the Incarnation?

Can a man live a consistently obedient life to God? Yes, he can. But that is a far cry from being perfect and never sinning. Perhaps we can ‘grow’ into our perfection, but to say we attain this from the get go and lose it, only to potentially gain it again is somewhat faulty reasoning. A perfect being can’t sin and if it does sin, it proves it wasn’t a perfect being. We are not perfect beings from the start and whether we sin because we have some sin nature, or because we are merely imperfect people, does it really matter? If we all sin or have sinned then how we get there is just pointless dribble - a smokescreen designed to sidetrack us from the real important topics, such as obedience.

Please understand, I am not suggesting that discussing these matters is wrong perse, but let’s really analyze what implications this question even has in the end? I guess I don’t see how this is even worth proving one way or the other, because you still have yourself and your own salvation to work out. The more we look to hide behind excuses, the longer our salvation is going to take to work out. We best not look for excuses or loopholes in this process.


The more we look to hide behind excuses, the longer our salvation is going to take to work out. We best not look for excuses or loopholes in this process.

As a practical matter for us personally you are right that it hardly matters. But historically churches and denominations have split or been started over this issue therefore historically speaking it’s actually been an important issue and worth looking into IMO.