President Obama, Mitt Romney and the Original Sin

· Christianity

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD

President Barrack Obama has repeatedly professed to be a Christian, so, he presumably believes in the standard Protestant version of Original Sin.  One can also reasonably assume that he underwent Baptism to overcome his handicap as a result of Original Sin, according to the conventional Christian doctrine.  If, he has not had Baptism, then the Republican allegation that he is a Muslim, has some merit.

Original Sin has some very interesting logical and philosophical ramifications.  So, let me borrow some information from Wikipedia about this doctrine:

Original sin[1] is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity’s state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man.[2] This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a “sin nature”, to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt.[3]

The doctrine is not found in Judaism[4] or in Islam.[5][6] Its scriptural foundation is in the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22).[2] It began to be developed by the 2nd-century Bishop of Lyon Irenaeus in his controversy with the dualist Gnostics.

The most well known proponent of this idea was Saint Augustine.  Wikipedia has preserved the details for us.  A casual reader can jump to the next section of the post:

Augustine of Hippo taught that Adam’s sin[21] is transmitted by concupiscence, resulting in mankind becoming a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd), with much enfeebled, though not destroyed, freedom of will.[2] When Adam sinned, human nature was thenceforth transformed. Adam and Eve, via sexual reproduction, recreated human nature. Their descendants now live in sin, in the form of concupiscence, a term Augustine used in a metaphysical, not a psychological sense.[22] Augustine insisted that concupiscence was not a being but a bad quality, the privation of good or a wound.[23] He admitted that sexual concupiscence (libido) might have been present in the perfect human nature in paradise, and that only later it became disobedient to human will as a result of the first couple’s disobedience to God’s will in the original sin.[24] In Augustine’s view (termed “Realism”), all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace. Grace is irresistible, results in conversion, and leads to perseverance.[25]

Opposition to Augustine’s ideas about original sin arose rapidly,[26] voiced particularly by the Pelagians.[25] After a long and bitter struggle the general principles of Augustine’s teaching were confirmed within Western Christianity by many councils, especially the Second Council of Orange in 529.[2] Some of the followers of Augustine identified original sin with concupiscence in the psychological sense, but this identification was challenged by the 11th-century Saint Anselm of Canterbury, who defined original sin as “privation of the righteousness that every man ought to possess”, thus separating it from concupiscence. In the 12th century the identification of original sin with concupiscence was supported by Peter Lombard and others, but was rejected by the leading theologians in the next century, chief of whom was Thomas Aquinas. He distinguished the supernatural gifts of Adam before the Fall from what was merely natural, and said that it was the former that were lost, privileges that enabled man to keep his inferior powers in submission to reason and directed to his supernatural end. Even after the fall, man thus kept his natural abilities of reason, will and passions. Rigorous Augustine-inspired views persisted among the Franciscans, though the most prominent Franciscan theologians, such as Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, eliminated the element of concupiscence.

Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin equated original sin with concupiscence, affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom.[2]

In the next Press Conference, journalists could ask President Obama, as to what version of Original Sin he believes in?  To be more specific, they could ask him if he believed in Augustine’s view termed “Realism”: all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good?

Was Obama present in Adam, when Adam had a fall? More importantly, the journalists could ask, was this handicap ‘to do good,’ was the reason of his broken promises during his first term?  If he cannot offer precise answers about Original Sin then may be he does not take his Christianity seriously!  Or, is he a Muslim in disguise as many Republicans allege?  I do not know specifically about him, but, I do believe that all Christians are Muslims in disguise, in their day to day life, in as much as they follow many a Islamic teachings without acknowledging.  For example, according to Islam all children are born innocent and not in Original Sin and over the centuries more and more Christians have subscribed to this idea, as they no longer condemn unbaptized children, who die young, to eternal hell, as was the original Christian doctrine, based on the ramifications of Original Sin. To prove my point let me quote again from Wikipedia, under the heading of Original Sin:

Augustine believed that the only definitive destinations of souls are heaven and hell. He concluded that unbaptized infants go to hell as a consequence of original sin.[28][29] The Latin Church Fathers who followed Augustine adopted his position, which became a point of reference for Latin theologians in the Middle Ages.[30] In the later mediaeval period, some theologians continued to hold Augustine’s view, others held that unbaptized infants suffered no pain at all: unaware of being deprived of the beatific vision, they enjoyed a state of natural, not supernatural happiness. Starting around 1300, unbaptized infants were often said to inhabit the “limbo of infants“.[31] The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1261 declares: “As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: ‘Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,’[32] allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.” But the theory of Limbo, while it “never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium … remains … a possible theological hypothesis”.[33]

If Obama takes his Christianity seriously, then he will remember the details about Original Sin or he can quickly read them in Wikipedia:

An interpretation of Augustine of Hippo‘s notion of original sin was strongly affirmed by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin. Calvin believed that humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception. This inherently sinful nature (the basis for the Calvinistic doctrine of “total depravity“) results in a complete alienation from God and the total inability of humans to achieve reconciliation with God based on their own abilities. Not only do individuals inherit a sinful nature due to Adam’s fall, but since he was the federal head and representative of the human race, all whom he represented inherit the guilt of his sin by imputation. Redemption by Jesus Christ is the only remedy.

John Calvin defined original sin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion as follows:

Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19). And that is properly what Paul often calls sin. The works that come forth from it–such as adulteries, fornications, thefts, hatreds, murders, carousings–he accordingly calls “fruits of sin” (Gal 5:19-21), although they are also commonly called “sins” in Scripture, and even by Paul himself.[52]

The Methodist Church, founded by John Wesley, upholds Article VII in the Articles of Religion in the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church:

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.[53]

Governor Mitt Romney is the Presidential Candidate for the Republican party and is of Mormon faith.  As regards, Original Sin, luckily for him, he is more of a Muslim than a Christian, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has given up the Augustine idea.  We read in Wikipedia:

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as Mormons, or LDS more specifically) do not believe in the concept of original sin as it is generally used in Christianity. The early blessing of God to Adam and Eve to “multiply and replenish” (Gen 1:28) is connected to the later command of God to Adam and Eve to not partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). Therefore these two aspects of the creation account are taught as to be obligatory yet apparently contradictory commands of God. The disobedience of Eve and Adam, therefore, becomes not quite the cause for humanity’s perpetual ancestral or original sin condition (were it not for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ), per se, but a “fall forward.” The Fall was a separation from living communion with God, yet was a necessary transgression intended by God so that humankind may come to be and experience joy:

22. And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created; and they must have remained forever, and had no end. 23. And they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. 24. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. 25. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy. (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:22-25)

10. And in that day Adam blessed God and was filled, and began to prophesy concerning all the families of the earth, saying: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. 11. And Eve, his wife, heard all these things and was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 5:10-11)

Furthermore, Latter-day Saints believe that everyone will be punished for their own individual sins and not for any transgression of Adam or Eve.[69] Neither do Mormons believe that children come into the world with any guilt because Jesus Christ atoned for any “original guilt,” and the sins of parents cannot be answered upon the heads of their children. Moses 6:53-54 in the Pearl of Great Price reads:

53. And our father Adam spake unto the Lord, and said: Why is it that men must repent and be baptized in water? And the Lord said unto Adam: Behold I have forgiven thee thy transgression in the Garden of Eden. 54. Hence came the saying abroad among the people, that the Son of God hath atoned for original guilt, wherein the sins of the parents cannot be answered upon the heads of the children, for they are whole from the foundation of the world.

Mormons also hold that little children are incapable of committing sin and, as such, have no need of baptism until age eight when they can begin to learn to discern right from wrong and are thus capable of sin and can be held accountable. Moroni 8:8-9 in the Book of Mormon reads:

8. Listen to the words of Christ, your Redeemer, your Lord and your God. Behold I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; the whole need no physician, but they that are sick; wherefore, little children are whole, for they are not capable of committing sin; wherefore the curse of Adam is taken from them in me, that it hath no power over them; and the law of circumcision is done away in me. 9. And after this manner did the Holy Ghost Manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.

Little children who die before reaching the age of accountability (even though they are unbaptized) are automatic heirs of salvation and are saved in the Celestial Kingdom of God through the atonement of Jesus Christ.


Whereas the story of the Fall of Adam is borrowed from the early chapters of the book of Genesis, the Hebrew Scriptures or the Old Testament say nothing about the transmission of hereditary sin to the entire human race.  In other words Judaism does not subscribe to Original Sin.  According to Islam every human being is born innocent and the Prophet Adam, may peace be on him, was not the first man.  Raw or undeveloped human nature according to Islam can be easily understood in our present day psychological paradigm, which has become second nature to all of us, regardless of religion and faith, however, without the scientific terminology.  Our self or ‘Ego’ is the arbiter between our desires or ‘Id’ and our conscience or ‘Superego.’  As a person makes better choices in life, his or her ‘Superego’ is strengthened and ‘Id’ is subdued.  This is the meaning of a Hadith, where the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said that everyone has a Satan (Id), but, he has completely subdued his own Satan (Id).  To get a more detailed understanding of personality theory of Islam, read a book by the Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam.

Governor Mitt Romney does not believe in Original Sin and one would have hoped that he would have fewer vulnerabilities.  But, when it comes to the Muslims, he seems to show less sensitivity and greater prejudice than President Obama, as suggested by his remarks in Israel about Palestinians.  May be the Governor needs to read more about Islam and history of the region and President Jimmy Carter through his books can be a good teacher for him and his election campaign.  Additionally, when it comes to important secular stuff both Obama and Romney gather their information from original and the best sources.  But, when it comes to Islam and Muslims they are not careful with their choices.  Let me suggest to both the Muslim Times and our site Islam for the West.

In the last two centuries both the Catholic and Protestant Churches have been deemphasizing Original Sin or reinterpreting it!  Shall we call it a compliment in disguise to Islam?  According to Encyclopedia Britannica online, “The doctrine is the prerequisite for the Christian understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion and atonement. Despite its importance for understanding Jesus’ sacrifice, the doctrine of original sin has been minimized since the European Enlightenment.”[1] I rest my case for today!

Further Reading about Original Sin from Muslim and scientific perspective:

Evaluating Original Sin against scientific discoveries

June 2010 Alislam-eGazette: Islam and Christianity


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