The perennial debate over the nature and extent of original sin underlies nearly every aspect of Christianity. This is especially true of any attempt at distinctively Christian anthropology. While this seems to have been a traditionally theological problem, I am convinced that Christian philosophy (I have in mind here contemporary philosophy) has much to offer toward an acceptable version of this doctrine; a philosophically precise articulation of original sin is needed. Toward this end philosopher Paul Copan has written “Original Sin and Christian Philosophy” (in Philosophia Christi, Series 2, 5/2 (2003): 519-41). Now, before you all start thinking that I am about to end the debate, let me clarify two things: (1) I’m not qualified to offer to exhaustive, philosophically precise exposition of Christian anthropology, and (2) even if I were so qualified, a blog is not the place to do so. So, why this post? My goal is to spark a discussion that will encourage our community to shift its attention to this neglected (at least philosophically neglected) area.
Any thorough articulation of the doctrine of original sin entails treatment of the imago Dei, grace, our connection to Adam and much else. Most professed Christians agree that somehow original sin affects our nature. But exactly how? Unfortunately, it seems that theologians and philosophers merely talk past one another here. I realize this is a gross generalization, but while ‘nature’ for theologians is simply a word, it is for philosophers a term.
This doctrine also has serious apologetical implications. We know that humanity is depraved, though there is some debate concerning its extent and the result of prevenient/common grace (and other areas). “Why should I answer for Adam’s sin?” “I would have responded differently than Adam did.” Such questions must be answered from an apologetical standpoint.
What is the best approach to this issue? Do you have some great relevant articles or books to recommend to the rest of us? I think it’s time for theologians and philosophers to get on the same page and begin presenting, insofar as we are able, a unified front with answers to the world (1 Peter 3:15).