What If We Don’t Need Saving From Original Sin?
Updated: Nov 4
Thoughts after reading Danielle Shroyer’s Original Blessing: Putting Sin in its Rightful Place
Original sin is a big deal in conventional Christian circles, a huge hurdle for modern day seekers to clamber over. Even I, a practicing Catholic and professing Christian, find the notion uncomfortable. Indeed, the premise we’re all born fundamentally faulty and so at odds with our creator we need to believe a scapegoat had to die for us before we were put right, is so removed from my experience of God I refused to think about it at all, much less discuss or defend it.
I’m a Christian, I would declare. But as for all that… I would end the conversation with a shrug, totally at loss how to go on. Totally conflicted about why I still insisted on belonging to this tribe of “believers” when clearly I didn’t believe… not the most accepted version of the story at any rate. So, I was glad when my internet book club The Red Couch decided to read Danielle Shroyer’s Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place for January.
This is what Shroyer says:
The gospel is not primarily a story of us being separated from God by original sin but of a God who is faithful to a people whose legacy is original blessing. It is a story of invitation and participation in the blessing and the life of God. The main message in Genesis is that God sees creation, including human beings, as good not flawed. God did not curse humans after Adam and Eve chose to disobey and his actions suggests he is always caring.
The concept of original sin is not part of Judaism or Eastern Orthodox Christianity and the term is never explicitly mentioned in the bible. While sin is nowadays used generically to mean any movement away from God, biblical Hebrew and Greek most frequently characterizes sin as “missing the mark” and “being separated” as well as being “twisted” and “unrighteous”. Less frequently, “rebellion” or “violating the law” is also considered sin. They do not describe a state of sin in which people’s natures are driven towards evil.
The most important confession of Christianity is that Jesus is Lord. Original sin is an unnecessary and unhelpful concept that sets us up as being in conflict with a God who is for us. Original sin is not the reason why we need Jesus. Jesus came to “make a way” to “life” in the example of his wise and faithful life, his call to repentance and healing, and his unwavering walk into suffering and the cross so he could defeat death. He came so we can walk with Him into life.
I was swept along almost all the way
The book is an easy read; the message attractive and the medium compelling. Shroyer is a pastor and the text reads like an engaging homily, part rhetoric and part biblical exegesis sprinkled with exuberant praise-prayer and quiet meditation. I was moved. Swept along. Almost carried away. But part of me worried, “Is this good biblical exegesis?” while another part of me rebutted, “I don’t care!”
As Shroyer says, the Eastern and Catholic church first argued about the nature of human being’s pre- and post-fall souls more than a thousand years ago. I googled and found out St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine weren’t quite on the same page on this issue too. I have no background in theology or bible studies. I’m in no position to judge.
What I know is this – Shroyer’s book forced me to confront and un-knot my personal discomfort with a doctrine purportedly espoused by a tribe I claim membership in. I was given an opportunity to consider a radically different interpretation of the human origin story presented in a prayerful and honest way. I was given the opportunity to examine my own beliefs and consider where I stood.
What I know is this – Shroyer’s book reflects my own faith-walk and practice, one that I must own is a slight left path away from that taken by traditional Catholicism and conventional Western Christianity.
What I know is this –I am still a practicing Catholic and a professing Christian. “Walk in my sight,” Abraham’s God said to him. He obeyed and ended up on a three day journey towards a mountain where he thought he was to sacrifice his son; a mountain where he came face to face with God’s provision.
So here I am, still walking…
Convicted – originally blessed and made in the image of God
With the freedom to choose – to live into the likeness of the living God or to be alienated
Knowing – there is always an opportunity to turn and to return.