LET ME ADMIT IT RIGHT UP FRONT. I don’t know what original sin is.
I do, however, know an original sinner when I see one.
I see one almost every day. I have grandkids.
I love them. And I don’t think of them as tiny sinners. But I do think we can patch together a few insights about the theologically lofty and abstract concept of original sin by consulting toddlers who can’t say much more than “Buddy,” “Paw Paw,” and “No, no, no, no, no!”
Consider these clues from a couple of grandkids, each child roughly one-and-a-half years old.
- Granddaughter picks up Grandpa’s iPhone off the coffee table. Instantly she runs with it toward Buddy the Dog’s water dish. Grandpa, on the other side of the house, barely wins that race.
- Grandson breaks out of the gated community set up for him in the living room. By the time Grandpa turns around to find him gone, grandson has one leg out the doggie door, and a smile on his face. The smile doesn’t last.
- Grandson, being taught not to hit people, gives Grandpa a bloody nose.
- Granddaughter decides to help Grandpa unload the dishwasher. Of all the objects she could reach for, she goes for the knives. She is negatively reinforced: “No, no, no, no, no!”
- Grandson loves to go to Grandpa’s Man Cave, downstairs. “Down dares,” as he puts it. Buddy the Dog joins them because he wants one of the biscuits Grandpa keeps in the storage area. While Grandpa reaches for a biscuit, the grandson reaches for a bottle of wine. He pulls it out of the wine slot and throws it on the floor. Happily, it bounces.
Original sin, a definition
“All people are born in sin. They are by nature self-centered. They find it easy to disobey. This is because they inherited a share in Adam’s first sin. They are under the power of a sinful nature. Jesus came to destroy original sin…The Holy Spirit cleanses Christians from original sin.” —A Dictionary of the Bible & Christian Doctrine in Everyday English
The idea here is that when Adam and Eve sinned, it somehow affected everyone.
Apostle Paul puts it this way: “Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned… Adam brought death to all of us, and Christ will bring life to all of us” (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22 CEV).
Sorry Paul, but I don’t get it. I don’t understand how Adam’s sin has anything to do with me. I never met the guy.
Even one of the smartest Christian scholars who ever lived, Augustine (AD 354-430), said there’s nothing harder to explain.
Here’s what I do understand.
Sin comes natural. Doing the right thing doesn’t.
Sinning is coasting. Doing the right thing is pushing a Buick up a tree.
Quote from a theologian
I remember what my seminary theology prof, Rob Staples, said about original sin.
“Even if we didn’t all sin in Adam, we’ve all sinned since then.”
I get that.
I see it in the grandkids who are already doing what their parents once did, testing boundaries, to discover that grandpas let them get by with stuff Mom and Dad forbid.
Some call it “spoiling.”
Grandpas call it “grace.”
Either way, it looks like this:
Punch Grandpa in the nose.
Grandpa says, “I regret that I have but one nose to give for my grandson…which is why you shouldn’t do it again.”