Most western Christians don’t realize that our understanding of man’s state of sinfulness — sometimes using terms like “total depravity” and “original sin” — is largely the invention of Augustine of Hippo, and that the majority of the Church at that time rejected his ideas. The Eastern churches still do.
The doctrine of Original Sin, by the way, is more than just believing that man is born with a tendency toward sin. It is also that man inherited the guilt of Adam — something the Bible doesn’t teach. This is why some believe that babies are born guilty, so if they die before they are baptized, they won’t make it into Heaven.
Personally, I think it’s enough to be guilty of my own sin.
Those of you who have followed this blog for any period of time might recall that I have in the past discussed various issues with what is known as the Penal Theory of the Atonement, which also arises from Augustine’s thinking. I’ve never claimed to be an expert on the subject, and I haven’t come to any final conclusions, except that the concept of the Father taking his anger out on Jesus because he needed someone to punish seems quite out of character. Also, I’ve raised issues with the Augustinian / Calvinist notion of Total Depravity, which also seems contrary to Jesus’ attitudes toward people.
Augustinian theology causes other problems, too, as discussed in the following video by an Orthodox Priest out of Canada. He brings out a number of very interesting points that I think Protestants should at least consider, such as the impact on the Church’s response to science and how Augustinian theology relates to violence. In fact, the Orthodox view seems to resolve a number of the issues often raised by atheists.
I think the video is worth 15 minutes of your time.
If you do watch it, I’d really be interested in your responses.