"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Original Sin & Depending on the Mercy of God

Last week when I announced that I'd finished reading the Quran, a couple friends asked my impressions of it as a whole, was it what I expected, did I like it overall, would I recommend it to others and whether it gave me any ideas about Muslims or Islam. Also I was asked to write down the messages of the Quran and Bible in five points each. The qualifier being "according to your reading" since ten people might read the Quran and Bible and come up with different thoughts on what are the five main points. That post is coming! I have the five points written, but want to review them for clarity. While writing those yesterday, I also jotted down some thoughts on sin nature/original sin that came to mind recently and I have decided to publish these notes first. Including this in my five-points post would make it too long. So here are some thoughts for you to consider. And I'd love to read your comments on this topic as well.


I was thinking about this the other day while cleaning or taking vitamins or something equally exciting. I recall Sarira giving a thought-out comment on Muslims believing in original purity rather than original sin. I am not sure if my thoughts are the norm for all Christians, but I wanted to explain briefly how I think of this concept. I know it's outlandish to birth this beautiful baby and believe it is an awful sinner since it hasn't had time to do anything wrong. I totally get that. I don't believe when I was born I was guilty of Adam and Eve's sin of eating the fruit from the tree nor was I guilty of the thievery of my greatgrandfather or the immorality of a great, great grandmother. I don't think you can pass down sins although I strongly believe you can pass down the consequences of sins. Just ask the little one born addicted to cocaine. He didn't snort crack yet his mother's sin affected his life even before he was born.

So as for original sin, I think of it more as a sin nature we inherit. A tendency towards first acting and reacting negatively instead of in a more positive way. Most parents that I know have never had to sit down and teach their children to be selfish with their toys or lie to get out of tough situations or bite when aggravated or even how to throw one of those lovely temper tantrums. I see those reactions coming with little effort whereas the good character qualities often take some learning and molding and reminders: "Say 'thank you.' What's the magic word? Say 'please.' Share with your sister!"

In some ways I see the Quran supporting these thoughts otherwise why would words like "strive" and "endeavor" be used in connection with doing good?

Dictionary.com says this is the meaning of "strive."

1. to exert oneself vigorously; try hard: He strove to make himself understood.
2. to make strenuous efforts toward any goal: to strive for success.
3. to contend in opposition, battle, or any conflict; compete.
4. to struggle vigorously, as in opposition or resistance: to strive against fate.
5. to rival; vie.

If we are born pure and basically good, it seems good deeds should spring forth from us more naturally than bad deeds, yet how many of you can honestly say that when someone cuts you off in traffic, your first thoughts are noble ones? If you are like me, you have to "try hard" or "make strenuous effort" to not react with a sharp word, honking your horn with emphasis or displaying a choice gesture for the offender! Why if goodness oozes from us, would the Quran use such a verb that has definitions such as "to exert oneself vigorously" or "compete." Those are definitions you could use for a World Cup athlete doing his best to score and put his team into the winning column! Not of one merely lounging by the pool reading a book as the good deeds just pop, pop, pop like grapes
on the vine bursting forth with little effort.

You might be saying, "Why all this focus on sin lately? Why paint us to be dirty, unclean, filthy people?" Trust me, it's not that I like realizing I am a sinner or that my sins are a putrid stench and abomination to God. I prefer to think of myself as basically a good person with charming ways and a friendly, welcoming smile. However as I've been reading more lately: the Quran and the essays on Leviticus, I realize we must first recognize we are sin
ners before we can understand our need for a Savior.

That Savior being God alone.

And not our good works.

Until we realize we are unclean in God's eyes and that we are unable to clean ourselves good enough for God's presence, we will keep trying to save ourselves by our own efforts. Yet as Creason said in his essay on Leviticus and the contagious "uncleanness,"

"In struggling to remain clean, the perceptive Israelite recognized his inherent wickedness. No matter how hard he tried he could not please God. Ultimately he had to thrust himself on God, hoping in God's gracious salvation (Psa. 119:81). Modern men and women are no better able to satisfy God through personal efforts. Like the Israelites of long ago, we too must depend on the mercy of God."

And I think depending on the mercy of God is something on which both Muslims and Christians can agree though it's harder to practice.



sarah said...

Susanne, I really like your interpretation of the issue of sin and agree with the points you made. Muslims do believe that babies are born without sin but that is coupled with the notion that they are not yet at an age when they can take responsability for their actions.

A Muslim would believe that both sin and goodness exist with ourselves and it is this struggle which frames our joureny through life.

It is the training in childhood that you spoke of which can either cast us into heaven or hell. There is that famous hadith 'Paradise lies at the feet of your mother's' because it is primarily her training which can help a person towards or away from sin when the child is not responsible.

As for thinking of yourself as sinful I think people should never addume they are righteous - then they may stop striving to be good. Much rather be aware of sin and the paths to sin then you will be better able to avoid them.

So I agree with your points but I think that for me personally, the issue is that it is faith and not deeds which are judged. Please correct me if I am wrong in that assumption.

LK said...

"sin of nature we inherit"

That is an amazing way to put it. We inherit the capacity to sin.

Anonymous said...

I was raised as a catholic,your interpretation of the original sin is way off.
They truly belive that a child is born with a black sin,until a few years ago babies who died before being baptised were buried on the outskirts of the cemetary not inside.Also ,it's believed that tose babies don't go to heaven but in a place between Heaven and Hell.
Hospital workers,nurses etc, are taught to baptise a dying newborn to save his soul!!!!!

oby said...

Hi Susanne...

I was wondering how I might email you off the blog to ask a question relating to another post you answered for me on another blog...if that would be OK. I am sorry but I can't seem to find a contact address for you on your blog. Thanks!

truerivers said...

I too believe that we do 'inherit' the consequences of others' sins and suffer from our own.And we are all basically prone to sin easily and that's why the Quran's useage of the words 'strive' and so on.

And also agree with Sarah's comment about babies born without sin.

On the whole,including on the Mercy of God without which we are nothing but dead :),I agree with your post.

Susanne said...

Sarah, thank you much for your informative comment! I really enjoy what you add to the discussions especially in this one how you brought the "paradise lies..." hadith into it. Shows how much responsibility mothers have, huh? Really, really enjoyed what you shared. Thanks!

Susanne said...

LK, welcome! :-) Thanks for your comment!

Susanne said...

Anonymous, well, I wasn't raised Catholic and I put as a disclaimer that my view may be unlike other Christians so cut me some slack! ;-) I appreciate you sharing the Catholic point of view. I happen to disagree that baptism washes away sins. I doubt the thief on the cross was baptized yet when he put his faith in Christ, Jesus said "today you will be with me in paradise." Baptism is an outward sign that we are following Jesus. It is symbolic as only God makes us clean.

I enjoyed your comment, thanks!

Susanne said...

Oby, you can write me at

bluesky732 @ yahoo . com

(without the spaces) - thanks!

Susanne said...

Lat, thank you! I'm glad we mostly agree! :)

Everyone, thank you for your comments. I enjoy reading your thoughts! :)

misschatterbox said...

Interesting post! AS regards the Islamic view of sin..this does differ to a Christian. Ask a Muslim: Did the prophets sin? Were the prophets perfect? Was Mohammed perfect? Did Muhammed sin? I have heard very different answers to all of these questions (to all Muslim readers I would interested to know any hadith/ayat answering these.) Sometimes perfection and not sinning does not add up.
I think Christianity is more 'strict' in the sense of what we view as sinful. For example lying is always sinful in Christianity - in Islam is it not always a sin.
My fiancee was amazed when he started reading the gospels and realised the high standard it set.
For example if an attractive/provactively dressed woman walks past a Muslim man and he sees her and is attracted - the first 'look' is given a free-pass of sorts - based on the idea that he had no choice. But then if he turns his head to take a second look it is 'counted' against him - i.e it is sinful.
Whereas the gospel says if a man looks at a woman with lust(even the first time!) it is sinful. I think that is why as Christians we cannot believe salvation can be achieved through works when sin is so easy and so often occurring in our lives!
Sin is a lot more serious to Christians. We view sin as evil, the antithesis to God, who is good, perfect and holy. This is why God hates sin and cannot merely 'overlook' it - the penalty for sin must be paid. Secondly sin cannot be cancelled out by good deeds like in Islam. This is based on the idea that a good deed does not 'un-do' the bad deed. For example a murderer whp saves a life will not be allowed to walk free - it does not erase the murder he has committed. Good deeds are done as a result of walking with God, and God will reward us in heaven for these deeds - but they cannot erase sin.

:) just a few thoughts!

Wafa' said...

i miss your posts :) and i am reading from new to older...

Anyway, i don't believe we are born sinner, not because i am a Mulim or anything like that. it's because i don't like to be held responsible for anything i have not done yet. that's why i hate hypothetical questions because i don't know how i would reacte when something happen or say. right now i might say i would do this and that but i don't know what will i do IF it happens. The same with sins. I like them to be as what they are. i did something wrong and that's my sin. i won't held responisble for something someone did before my birth.
And you are right in that we can be suffer the consquences of sins. which is not fair, too. I wish so many things in this life to be cbanged and that's one of them.

As for kids, i guess we don't teach them to be selfish for example but we show them how to be like that. maybe they inheirt these sins from us !!! we work hard to get rid of them but in a way we gave it to them. maybe, who knows ?

Anonymous said...

lol, I had to read when I read mischatterbox comment about first look etc...
How many Christian obey that????why is there so many naked women walking around??

And about good deeds erasing sins,I like that better that the idea of confessing your sins to a man(priest) who then pardons you!!!!

Suroor said...

Thanks Susie, for this post. Some great ideas here.

Susanne said...

Miss Chatterbox, and I really enjoyed your thoughts. I agree that the standard is high...it's perfect, God's standard of righteousness and I agree we cannot meet those standards on our own. Thank God for His help! :-) I appreciate your comments!

Susanne said...

Wafa', oh my goodness, I hate hypothetical questions too! Samer is all the time asking me stuff - what I'd think, how I'd react, what I would do -- and it drives me nuts! Ha, ha! I don't know what I would do. I'd like to say I'd react in a GREAT, PERFECT way, but who knows if I would in reality? :)

" i won't held responisble for something someone did before my birth.
And you are right in that we can be suffer the consquences of sins. which is not fair, too. I wish so many things in this life to be cbanged and that's one of them."

Yes, this is what I said. You aren't responsible for what Adam did for instance, but the consequences of sin are often passed on. I agree, it's not fair, but it is what it is. :-/

"maybe they inheirt these sins from us !!! we work hard to get rid of them but in a way we gave it to them. maybe, who knows ? "

Well, I think "inherit" isn't the word you want to use since this implies sinfulness being passed on and you said earlier you don't believe we are born sinners. But maybe you mean we teach selfishness to our children. Yes, some people would say it's environment that ruins kids.

I really enjoy hearing your points of view. Thanks much for sharing them! :)

Susanne said...

Anon, Christians fall very far short of God's glorious standard of perfection. This is why we rely on the mercy of God for pardon. We can't save ourselves by our good works. We need a Savior. I confess sins to God as He is the One who pardons sins.

Suroor, thanks for your comment!

misschatterbox said...

@ Susanne - Thanks, I enjoy your posts too! very thought-provoking

@Anon - I'm afraid you are again mistaking all christians for catholics!
I assure you I don't confess my sins to any man! I'm not sure what the catholic practice of confession is based on - maybe some catholic friends can help me out here? But I'm pretty sure the priest is assuring them of GOD's forgiveness, not forgiving them himself - after all no man can forgive sins!
I'm assuming you are Muslim - so you are either shia, sunni, sufi etc - and there are certain practices (such as mutah marriage) that Muslims do not agree upon - and us Christians are the same!
Of course you are welcome to disagree :) but the issue of good deeds erasing bad deeds was about God's behaviour not humans - and I believe saying that at least one belief is better than another is not really a justification!

I too had to laugh when I read "why is there so many naked women walking around??"

hehehe good question!! But you missed my point. The point is not to control the naked women - it is to control ourselves! If we are tempted by 'naked women' we have to address the root of the problem - not try and remove the temptation. You might ask, "how can we control out thoughts?" The bible says that God's holy spirit, when we have a relationship with him, helps remove thse desires. For example a man who sees a 'naked' woman might fantasise about her and not be able to control his thoughts. But a man of God who simply be emabarrassed and ashmahed for her and look away. This is why although I believe in modest clothes I do not think it is the cure for men having sexual thoughts - thye are responsible for that!
One last thing - what about the naked men! Nobody gives a thought for us women who see naked men walking around! hehehehheh