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God the Author of Nature and the Supernatural
Part Two: Creation as a Divine Fact

Section Two: Supernatural Anthropology

Adam Lost Original Justice by Sinning Gravely.
Original Sin Therefore Exists in All Men as a True Sin,
Proper to Each Person and Transmitted from Adam by Propagation.

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Our first parents were called to live in the friendship of God, so that their relations with God were different than they would have been if they had remained in the state of pure nature, merely as rational animals. The original justice described in the previous thesis comprehended their possession of supernatural grace and preternatural gifts, and described the condition which God had in store for the rest of mankind. A terrestrial paradise was only the beginning of what God really intended for the human family, an intimacy with His divine Trinity that exceeded the native capacity and powers not only of men but of angels, and destined to last for eternity.

If the Holy Trinity had revealed Itself to Adam in the fulness of intuitive vision from the start, this would have deprived the first man of all power to reject the offer of divine friendship. His response to the divine will would have been inevitable, drawn irresistibly by the love of Infinite Goodness which he saw face to face. He would not have been able to merit his destiny, or prove hisfidelity by overcoming obstacles placed in his path.

The possibility of a free acceptance of God’s command was a great honor given to the first man, as it was also a grave risk. Indeed wemight describe original sin as the negative answer to the divine invitation, and its consequences affected not only Adam but the whole human race. Yet we know the economy of salvation did not stop there. For all its drastic results, original sin proved to be the "felix culpa" that occasioned the Incarnation of the Son of God and our own Redemption from the state of sin.

There are two principal parts to the present thesis: the fact of Adam's sin, and the existence of original sin, derived from Adam by natural propagation. And although the Pelagian errors in the Patristic period evoked several major condemnations about original sin, the locus classicus for this thesis (as for the whole subject of original sin) is the Council of Trent. The Reformation concepts of sin and man’s fallen nature were so at variance with traditional Christianity that every aspect of this doctrine had to be explored and, if necessary, defined to settle once and for all what the Church wants her faithful to believe.


As before, Adam is alone identified as the author of original sin, though Scripture clearly shows Eve as his accomplice and, in fact, the one who tempted her husband. Yet because the documents confine themselves to Adam we also limit our statement of responsibility to the first man. In the body of the thesis it will appear why Eve's part in the fall of mankind was quite secondary, although popularly we speak of the "fall of our first parents" and not only of Adam.

Sin in general is a “deordination from the moral law," and here means a grave sincommitted by the first man as head of the human race. Five qualities are generally attributed to Adam's transgression. It was seriously culpable, personal with Adam, technically original originating (originale originans), implied total aversion from God, and conversion or turning to creatures. We do not directly enter into examining the precise nature of Adam's sin apart from its being an act of disobedience of the divine will.

Implied in Adam's sin is the correlative divine precept or law imposed upon Adam to obey. This precept was a positive command as something distinct from the natural law; it was a strict precept in the sense that it was morally binding and not a mere counsel; and it was gravely obligatory, not necessarily ratione materiae but at least because imposed by God as a serious duty.

The original justice which Adam lost included the whole complexus of gifts which he received as dona naturae, namely, those which he was to transmit to all mankind. Consequently since infused knowledge is commonly held to have been a personal gift to Adam, it is believed not to have been lost (at least entirely) by the fall.

In the statement of the thesis we say that Adam “lost" his possession of original justice. Implicitly this means "lost for himself,” since the second part of the thesis refers to the loss of these gifts to Adam's posterity.

Original sin will be further analyzed in the next thesis. For the present it is understood to possess the following properties. It is sin as something habitual and not actual, natural and not personal, involving a moral state of soul and state of culpability, implying both the reatus culpae and the macula peccati, and properly described as original originated (originale originatum) as distinct from the personal sin of Adam.

Saying that original sin exists in all men means that it passed on through natural propagation to all of Adam's descendants, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin and, of course, Jesus Christ.

It is proper to each person not merely taken collectively but distributively, and not only by extrinsic imputation of Adam's sin to his descendants but intrinsically, i.e., in virtue of that which makes every human being a sinner in the true sense of the term.

Moreover what each person has on his soul is a true sin, to be understood formally and not merely in causa, for example because we all have concupiscence which leads to sin; nor merely in effectu, because we are all subject to the consequences of sin in suffering and death. Rather the sin isin us proprie, because it renders man displeasing to God, and guilty with both reatu culpae and poenae.

This sin is transmitted from Adam bypropagation, namely, through generation. It takes place at the moment of conception, when the soul isunited with its matter, which has been properly disposed by the parents. Propagation is generally interpreted as paternal generation because the father is the active generative principle.


In view of their position on original justice, the Pelagians denied that Adam lost what was really due to his human nature. According to Luther and the Evangelical Protestants, original justice was natural to Adam; in the theory of Baius it was part of his nature, not indeed constitutively but certainly by a strict exigency; and for Jansenius original justice was due to the first man because of God’s wisdom. In all these cases, what was "lost" would be quite different from what Catholic theology means when it says that Adam lost sanctifying grace by his sin.

The same is true regarding integrity. For the Jansenists concupiscence was a vigor naturae; for the classic Protestants integrity was so natural to Adam that when he lost it man's nature became essentially corrupt; Baius held that integrity was due to nature.

Also immortality was not actually lost, according to the Pelagians, because Adam wasnever immortal. And in Baianism and Jansenism, immortality was due ex exigentiis naturae.

In general, the principal adversaries on the transmission of original sin from Adam to the human race are the Pelagians, the Protestants and the Rationalists.

The Pelagians admitted original originating sin in Adam, but denied original originated sin in his posterity. They claimed that Adam merely left his descendents a bad example, not an inherent defect of nature which is intrinsic to man since the fall. While admitting baptism, the Pelagians refused to explain it in terms of remission of sin; at most it was a means to entering the Kingdom of Heaven, which they conceived as something higher than eternal life.

Protestants in Reformation times generally admitted the existence of original sin. Zwingli was rather unique in calling it into question. He believed that Adam sinned, and that he transmitted to his progeny bodily death and the concupiscence which corrupts human nature. But he would not admit that because of Adam's sin, his children inherited a sinful nature and therefore are born in sin properly and formally so called. At most Zwingli conceded that original sin in us is an inclination to evil.

Beginning with Scleiermacher in Germany, and much earlier in England, protestant theologians tended to rationalize the mystery of original sin. The clearest expression of what is still a current liberal Protestant theory came from Ritschl (1822-1889). In Ritschlean terms, sin ultimately consists in the personal acts of individual men. However, humanity lives in a "kingdom of sin" which infects the separate lives of all men. This kingdom arises from the fact that one man's sin creates the custom of sinning, following the laws of psychology on the creation of habits. It arises also from the stimulating and provocative character of sin, whether by example, retaliation or perversion of existing mores.

Rationalists deny on principle the objective reality both of Adam's sin and consequent loss of grace, and with emphasis the transmission of an intrinsic sinfulness inherited from the first man by all his descendants.

Two types of Rationalism may be distinguished. The first type considers the Genesis narrative as descriptive of the passage of humanity or of man individually to the status and experience of maturity. Hence the colorful story of conflict and struggle for progress and the loss of infantile happiness. In this theory, the concept of original sin isa myth which symbolizes progress. Through Kantian and Neo-Kantian writers, this idea found its way into Modernism at the turn of the century and is still common in liberal Protestant circles.

Another theory of Rationalism sees in the Genesis story of original sinthe symbol of what occurs in the religious life of every human being, once he realizes his radical estrangement from God as a sinner. This individualistic notion is favored by the "dialectical" theologians in modern Protestantism.

In the system of Paul Tillich, original sin is symbolic of man’s condition as a finite being. It is not declarative of an objective fact and still less of a contingent situation which need not have been. "The fall," in Tillichian language, "is a symbol of the universal predicament of man; it does not refer to a specific event in history, but points to the gap between what is and what ought to be. In the Genesis myth the psychological-ethical character of the fall is elaborated, showing the free side of man's fall as an individual event. The myth of the transcendent fall (the ontological description of the transition from essence to existence) depicts the tragic destiny side of the fall as a universal event. The fall involves the actualization of finite freedom within tragic destiny. It characterizes all of existence; in this sense, creation and the fall are said to coincide" Theology Today, April 1960, pg. 82.

Dogmatic Value

It is defined doctrine that Adam sinned by transgressing a divine precept, and also defined that the sin was grave, as appears from the terms used in the definition and from the description of its effects (DB 788).

Most probably the divine precept was positive, but this depends on the further question of the precise nature of Adam's sin. We may sayit is de fide from the constant teaching of the Magisterium that Adam's sin was primarily an act of disobedience. Secondarily, however, other moral species of sin were also included in Adam's disobedience.

Moreover it is defined in Trent that by his sin Adam lost the original justice he received from God (DB 788).

The transmission of original sin and its consequences to Adam's posterity, as a real sin inherent in every person (except Christ and the Blessed Virgin) is solemnly defined doctrine: in the condemnation of the Pelagians by Pope Zozimus in 418 (DB 101-102); at the Council of Orange confirmed by Boniface II against the Semipelagians in 529 (DB 174-175); and in great detail by the Council of Trent in its Decree on Original Sin (DB 789-792). It is significant that centuries before Pius IX's definition of the Immaculate Conception, the Council of Trent made a dogmatic exception as regards the Blessed Virgin in the matter of original sin, declaring, "it is not its intention to include in this decree, which treats of original sin the blessed and immaculate Virgin Mary, mother of God" (DB 792).

Theological Proof

Part One: "Adam Lost Original Justice by Sinning Gravely."

  1. Ecclesiastical Documents

    1. Pope Zozimus confirmed the XVI Council of Carthage, which condemned the Pelagians, declaring "whoever saysthat Adam, the first man, was created mortal so that, whether he sinned or not, he would have died a bodily death, that is, he would have departed from the body, not as a punishment for sin but by the necessity of his nature: let him be anathema" DB 101.

    2. Boniface II confirmed the II Council of Orange, stating that "if anyone says that it was not the whole man, that is,both body and soul, that was changed for the worse through the offense of Adam's sin…he is deceived by the error of Pelagius" DB 174.

    3. However the teaching of Trent is most explicit and detailed. Both Latin and English texts follow:

      Si quis non confitetur, primum hominem Adam, cum mandatum Dei in paradiso fuisset transgressus, statim sanctitatem et justitiam, in qua constitutus fuerat, amisisse incurrisseque per offensam praevaricationis hujusmodi iram et indignationem Dei atque ideo mortem, quam antea illi comminatus fuerat Deus, et cum morte captivitatem sub ejus potestate, qui mortis deinde habuit imperium, hoc est diaboli, totumque Adam per illam praevaricationis offensam secundum corpus et animam in deterius commutatum fuisse: anathema sit. DB 788.
      If anyone does not profess that the first man Adam immediately lost the justice and holiness in which he was constituted when he disobeyed the command of God in Paradise; and that, through the offense of this sin, he incurred the wrath and indignation of God, and consequently incurred the death with which God has previously threatened him and, together with death, bondage in the power of him who from that time had the empire of death, that is, of the devil; and that it was the whole Adam, both body and soul, who was changed for the worse through the offense of this sin: let him be anathema.
  2. Sacred Scripture

    There are two elements to establish; that Adam sinned gravely, and that because of his sin he lost original justice. The ambit of texts covering these elements is Genesis 2:15-17, Genesis 3:1-24, and Romans 5; 12-19.

    According to the Genesis narrative, Adam (and Eve) were given an authentic precept by God. The Lord is said to have "commanded" them not to eat of the forbidden fruit. In Hebrew the verbs amar and sivah, corresponding to the Greek entello, indicate a strict precept. So, too, the gravity of the threatened punishment, namely death, points to the strictness of the command.

    It was therefore a grave precept because of the gravity of the sanction, first as threatened and then as imposed: in being driven out of paradise, loss of integrity, bodily death, specific punishments in trials and difficulties. Moreover the context shows that God's purpose in giving the precept was to test Adam's fidelity which ex hypothesi is a grave matter or implies gravity in God's intention.

    The full awareness and consent which Adam and Eve had in sinning appears from the gifts of grace and preternature which they possessed, and the absence of concupiscence. It appears also from the detailed character of the narrative given by the author of Genesis; and is confirmed by the severe penalties which God visited on our first parents and their posterity, indicating fulness of attention and deliberation to merit such punishment.

    Two sets of gifts were lost by Adam and Eve, the preternatural through the loss of integrity (Genesis 3:7,10,21) as seen in the previous thesis; of immortality (Genesis 3:19), "for dust you are and unto dust you shall return"; of impassibility for Eve (Genesis 3:16), “I will make great your distress in childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth your children," and for Adam (Genesis 3:17-19), “Cursed be the ground because of you; in toil shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread." The other gifts were lost through ejection from Paradise.

    Although Genesis does not directly treat of the loss of sanctifying grace, this becomes evident from the New Testament. Adam is repeatedly said to have lost what Christ restored; and since Christ restored sanctifying grace, this is what Adam lost by his sin. Moreover if the posterity of Adam is deprived of grace because of Adam's fall, a fortiori Adam himself.

  3. Patristic Evidence

    The Fathers directly taught the fall of Adam and his loss of original justice as may be seen from their insistence on the manifold guilt involved in the sin of the first man. They also stressed the literal meaning of the Genesis account against the aberrations of Alexandrian exegesis. While admitting the presence of allegory and consequent spiritual sense of the narrative, they stressed its secondary nature and dependence on the literal meaning of the basic doctrines of man's elevation and fall from grace.

    St. Augustine's description may be taken as typical. Speaking of the gravity of Adam's sin, he says, “There was pride in it, because man chose to be under his own dominion rather than under the dominion of God; and sacrilege, because he did not believe God; and murder, for he brought death upon himself; and spiritual fornication, because the purity of the human, mind was corrupted by the seducing blandishments of the serpent; and theft, for man turned to his own use food he had been forbidden to touch; and avarice, for he had a craving for more than should have been sufficient for him; and whatever other sin can be discovered on careful reflection to be involved in this one admitted sin” Enchiridion, 45.

Part Two: “Original Sin Exists In All Men As A True Sin, Proper To Each Person And Transmitted From Adam By Propagation.”

  1. Ecclesiastical Documents

    1. In the same XVI Council of Carthage quoted above, Pope Zozimus in 418 confirmed the declaration that "If anyone saysthat children are indeed baptized unto the remission of sins, but they contract nothing of the original sin from Adam, which isremoved by the laver of regeneration…let him be anathema" DB 102.

    2. In the famous Indiculus or Catalogue of Errors on Grace and Free Will, in the fifth century, we read that "All men lost their 'natural powers' and their innocence in the sin of Adam. And no one is capable of rising from the depths of this loss by his own free will if the grace of the merciful God does not lift him up" DB 130.

    3. The II Council of Orange (529), confirmed by Boniface II, declared that “If anyone asserts that Adam's sin was injurious only to Adam and not to his descendants, or if he declares that it was only the death of the body which is punishment for sin, and not the sin, the death of the soul, that passed from one man to all the human race, he attributes an injustice to God and contradicts the words of the Apostle, 'Through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death has passed into all men because all have sinned’” DB 175.

    4. Again the most explicit documentation comes from Trent, in its definitions against the protestant Reformers. The Tridentine teaching is based, verbatim in places, on the doctrine of the Council of Orange:

      Si quis Adae praevaricationem sibi soli et non ejus propagini asserit nocuisse, acceptam a Deo sanctificationem et justitiam, quam perdidit, sibi soli et non nobis etiam perdidisse; aut inquinatum ilium per inoboedientiae peccatum mortem et poenas corporis tantum in omne genus humanum transfudisse, non autem et peccatum, quod est mors animae: anathema sit. DB789
      Si quis hoc Adae peccatum, quod origine unum estet propagatione, non imitatione transfusum omnibus inest unicuique proprium, vel per humanae naturae vires, vel per aliud remedium asserit tolli, quam per meritum unius mediatoris Domini nostri Jesu Christi…anathema sit. DB 790
      If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin was injurious only to Adam and not to his descendants, and that it was for himself alone that he lost the holiness and justice which he had received from God, and not for us also; or that after his defilement by the sin of disobedience, he transmitted to the whole human race only death and punishment of the body, but not sin itself which is the death of the soul: let him be anathemas.
      If anyone says that this sin of Adam, which is one by origin, and which is communicated to all men by propagation not by imitation, and which is in all men and proper to each, is taken away either through the powers of human nature or through a remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ…let him be anathema.
  2. Sacred Scripture

    The classic text from Scripture is St. Paul's letter to the Romans 5; 12-21. It enjoys the privilege of being constantly used by the Church in teaching the doctrine of original sin, since the Pelalgian crisis to the Council of Trent. As a matter of record, Trent explicitly rejected the interpretation of Erasmus who denied that the idea of original sin is contained in the fifth chapter of Romans.

    In the previous chapters of the epistle, Paul showed that all men exist under sin and must await redemption through faith in Jesus Christ. In the fifth chapter he treats of the meaning and greatness of our redemption, drawing a parallel between the history of our fall through Adam and the history of our salvation through Christ. He therefore deals with original sin in obliquo, while speaking of the presence of original sin in the world.

    The unanimous interpretation of the Church recognizes that St. Paul is here teaching the doctrine of original sin inthis sense; through Adam's disobedience the entire human race was placed into the state of enmity with God, from which condition it isredeemed by the merits of Jesus Christ.

    However, interpreters do not fully agree on how exactly the above teaching may be proved from St. Paul. The main bone of contention refers to the words underlined in verse 12:Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; so also death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned." This is the Douay version, corresponding to the Vulgate “in quo omnes peccaverunt,” and the Greek “eph' hōpantes hēmarton." The New Confraternity version translates the passage, "because all have sinned."

    One interpretation of St. Paul, following in the tradition of the Latin Fathers and commonly found in theological manuals argues that the Apostle in context issaying that from the sin of Adam all men are constituted sinners, because all are subject to physical death. Or put formally; Death is the penalty of sin; but all must die, including those who have not sinned personally; therefore all are constituted sinners from the sin of Adam, even before they commit personal sins which deserve death.

    St. Paul presupposes that death is the punishment for sin from the narrative in Genesis, to which he alludes in the first words of the pericope, "Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world and through sin death."

    The Apostle shows that all are liable to death from the fact that men were sinners even before the Mosaic Law.There was sin, he says,against the law of nature during the period between Adam and Moses, but the sins committed before the Law were not imputed as a cause of death, when the condition was not expressed. Yet all, even infants, underwent death. It must be then because all mankind shared in some way in the sin of Adam.

    Modern writers who follow this interpretation do not, however, take the expression in quo omnes peccaverunt as referring explicitly to Adam. They rather understand the words causally quia omnes peccaverunt.

    Another interpretation, said to approximate the line of the Greek Fathers, begins with the premise that through Adam there has entered into the world death sensu totali, namely, as a state of enmity with God which carries with it as consequence physical death without hope of bodily resurrection.

    This death passes into all men by reason of the fact, since the condition is verified that all have sinned through personal sins. Death has always reigned over the sons of Adam, who could never avoid personal sins: either before the Mosaic Law or after. They could not avoid them before Moses because no positive law had yet been given; nor after Moses because though the Law gave knowledge of sins it did not give the power to avoid them. Only Christ gives His sons the grace to conquer sin and therefore avoid death in the sense explained by St. Paul.

    A caution to be observed in this second interpretation is to make sure that the personal sins committed by Adam’s descendants be made to depend upon Adam and not upon his bad example (which would be Pelagianism); and also that all men are already liable to death by their very nature (derived from Adam), even before having committed any personal sins.

  3. Patristic Evidence

    After the Pelagian conflict (and occasioned by it), the fact of original sin and its transmission are perfectly clear in the Patristic literature. St. Augustine was the great clarifier. But even before Augustine, the tradition is solid in itsessential elements. Thus children before the age of reason were baptized unto the remission of sins; certainly not personal sins. And the ceremonies of baptism were directed to delivering the children from the slavery of the devil.

    An implicit argument may be found in the cautious and surreptitious way the Pelagians sought to propagate their doctrine against original sin: using ambiguous language, circumlocutions, obscure and double-meaning words, in order to deceive the people. They were conscious that Christians in general believed in original sin.

    Also once the Pelagian heresy came on the scene, the disturbance it caused and reaction it aroused indicated that a cardinal principle of the Christian faith was being attacked.

    Rationalists who saddle Augustine with creating the doctrine of original sin are indulging in pure speculations with all the facts against them. St. Augustine taught many things, and the Church did not follow him in everything; why in the doctrine of original sin? Historically we know the Donatists were bitter enemies of Augustine. If he had "invented" the doctrine, they would have been the first to oppose it, at least on personal grounds. Yet the Donatists professed to believe in Adam's fall and man's inheritance of Adam's sinful nature. In his polemic writings, Augustine felt he was standing on the solid rock of tradition. He spoke (in one passage) of all the "saintly and learned priests who professed this Catholic doctrine; Ireneus, Cyprian, Reticius, Olympius, Hilary, Basil, Gregory (of Nysaa), Innocent, John (Chrysostom), to whom I add Jerome."

    The Ante-pelagian Fathers regularly appealed to St. Paul's letter to the Romans, but they did not rest their case there. Other passages from the Old and New Testaments were also invoked. In other words, belief in the doctrine of original sin was recognized as part of the deposit of faith, even independent of the exegesis of St. Paul.

Kerygmatic Development

  1. How Could Adam Sin? A practical question arises about the cause of Adam’s sin once we reflect that he was highly gifted, naturally and by grace, and possessed the privilege of integrity. With his appetitive faculties under control, and his mind specially enlightened, how was sin possible? The answer is ultimately a mystery. But theologians, following St. Thomas, argue to the inner tension in Adam between nature and grace as laying the basis for his sin. Elevated to the supernatural order, and gifted with faith in things yet unseen, Adam was obliged to submit his mind to the word of God and strive to conform to the higher demands laid upon him by grace. But his nature drew him inwards, towards self-sufficiency.

    From this double polarity came the possibility of turning away from God in rebellion against His will by turning to himself in consummate pride. When the tempter assured Eve that “God knows that when you eat (of the forbidden tree), your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil," he was appealing to the basic urge in human nature in its state of probation - the desire to independence, not only of other creatures but even of God.

  2. Man Fallen and Redeemed. While treating of original sin and of man's fallen lot, we should always keep in mind that the human race did not remain in the condition produced by Adam's sin. The obedience of Christ has restored the damage done by the disobedience of Adam. From the moment in Genesis when the Lord promised a Redeemer, the grace of Christ began its effective work in the world, reconciling a fallen humanity with God. Even before the Church came into being, there were internal graces in the hearts and minds of men, leading them (though with greater difficulty) to free themselves from original sin.

    It is certainly true that death, concupiscence and other evils brought into human life by Adam's sin are the common experience of mankind. They represent an abnormal condition that would not have been had our first parents remained faithful to God. But among Christians they should not be looked upon primarily as penalties for sin, which they are, but as means given us to grow in the likeness of Christ, in union with Him, in increase of merit through the acceptance of pain out of love for God and for His greater glory through our greater sanctity.

    Though too seldom associated, the doctrines of original sin and necessity of baptism are closely related; and in fact the Church's insistence on infant baptism points up as little else can how truly sinful is even a new-born infant because of its inherited fallen nature. Without baptism the child will not enter the beatific vision if it dies before the age of reason. Moreover the ceremonies of baptism, if explained to the faithful, are a running commentary on the evil from which the child is being delivered. The exorcisms show that the new born is under the dominion of the devil; the prayers and rites for deliverance indicate that although no personal sins were committed, yet a mysterious condemnation rests upon the infant by reason of its entrance into the human family.

    Behind the Church's missionary zeal and all her evangelism to the non-Christian (and non-Catholic) world stands this doctrine of original sin. Knowing on faith that mankind needs the grace of Christ to rise above its fallen condition, her sacraments - notably baptism, penance and the Eucharist - are carried to the ends of the earth, on the conviction that these are the means instituted by Christ for bringing a sinful people back to their Creator.

  3. Original Sin and the Need to Work. It is often said that work is a penalty for original sin. Thus we read in Genesis that when Adam was driven out of paradise he was told that from then on he would earn his bread with the sweat of his brow, that the ground would be cursed because of him, that it would bring thorns and thistles to him in return for his efforts on the soil.

    Critics of the Church use these ideas to accuse Christianity of demeaning the status of labor, which other ideologies like Marxism are restoring to its deserved respectability as a joyous enterprise. Hence the importance of clarifying the relation between labor and the doctrine of original sin.

    To begin with, work was not introduced into the world by original sin,but the fatigue which comes from work. In the first narrative of creation, God makes man to His image and places him over all the works of His hands, "to fill the earth and subdue it." In the second narrative of creation, it issaid the earth was still dry because "the Lord God had sent no rain on the earth and there was no man to till the soil; but a mist rose from the earth and watered all the surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed man." The Garden of Eden was planted by God, but God gave it to man "to till it and keep it," and to this end also placed the animals under his dominion.

    In view of this, it is clear that even before he sinned man was chosen by God as His collaborator, in order to perfect what the Lord had brought into being. God changed chaos into the cosmos, to make it habitable for man, who in turn was to apply himself to continuing the work of the Creator and make the world ever more suitable as a dwelling place.

    When sin came on the scene, man lost hisquiet dominion over the animals and the forces of nature, and as a further consequence began to sense fatigue as a type of suffering. But even though the demands of labor now became trying, work itself never lost its pristine nature of collaboration with the creative agency of God.

    Time and again, Scripture mentions the duty of man to labor. "Six days you may labor and do all your work," was ordered by the Law of Moses given on Sinai. (Exodus 20:9). The Psalms recall the happiness of the man who is nourished by the work of his hands (Psalm 127:2), and praise the works of the Lord, while describing man as going forth when the sun first rises and remaining at his labor until the end of day (Psalm 103:23). The proverbs are eloquent in denouncing the sluggard who refuses to work, which find an echo in the New Testament, as in the words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. "We worked night and day," he told them, "in labor and toil, so that we might not be a burden to any of you…that we might make ourselves an example for you to imitate us. For indeed when we were with you we used to charge you: if any man will not work, neither let him eat" (II Thessalonians 3:9-11). Thus both the duty to labor and the native reluctance to work because of the effort it demands, are made clear.

    This labor which Scripture so much recommends is not only manual. Ecclesiasticus praises the work of artisans and also of the doctor, of the learned scribe, and much more of those who apply themselves to studying the laws of the Most High (Ecclesiasticus 38:1-8, 24; 39). Christ was reputed to be a carpenter and the son of a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). Yet when He spoke of His work, He always referred to His preaching the Gospel, and to the works of Redemption committed to Him by His Father (John 9:4; 17:4). His Apostles, who were sent to complete His work, are cooperators with God (I Corinthians 3:9), and perform labors which are so real that they deserve a just salary (I Timothy 5:18).

    Howsoever conceived, therefore, labor in all its forms appears in revelation as correspondence to a divine vocation. Only the aspect of fatigue in labor is a result of sin. Yet even this fatigue, since the Redemption, has been ennobled by becoming a means of sharing in the cross of Christ. Thus we can better appreciate the statement of the late Pius XII, that for Christians work is one of the most important means of sanctification, and one of the most effective ways of becoming united to God and meriting an eternal reward (Allocution of April 25, 1950).

Study Questions

  1. What is the meaning of original justice, which Adam lost?

  2. Define sin in general, and describe in detail the qualities of the sin of Adam.

  3. How does original sin originans differ from original sin originatum? Explain.

  4. What does it mean that original sin in us is a true sin, proper to each person?

  5. Explain the terms when we say that Adam's sin is transmitted to his progeny by propagation.

  6. Show how the Pelagians, the Protestants, Jansenists and Rationalists are against the present thesis on Adam's fall and the transmission of original sin.

  7. Give the dogmatic notes for the various parts of the thesis.

  8. How do we prove from Trent that Adam sinned grievously and that he transmitted his sin to all mankind?

  9. Show from Scripture, in Genesis, that Adam sinned and lost original justice.

  10. Outline the proof from Romans for the transmission of original sin from Adam to the human race.

  11. Summarize the Patristic evidence for the fact of original sin in Adam, and its transfusion to Adam's posterity.

  12. How was it possible for Adam to sin, since he was so gifted by God?

  13. Comment on the significance of considering man as not only fallen but redeemed. What difference does it make in practice to stress the one or the other?

  14. What is the Theology of Work," in relation to original sin?

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica

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