If Original Sin has been removed from baptised parents, how come their kids still get it?

There is an interesting blog discussion here on Pastor Weedon’s blog. You need to go past the blog itself, and into the comments string to get the full force of it.

Basically, it is a question of the Real or Imputed Righteousness. Catholics claim the former, Lutherans the latter. The point at issue is a quotation from St Augustine, ostensibly misquoted in the Lutheran Confessions. Bryce Wandry tells this story:

Professor Richard Rex wrote: “For in the Lutheran tradition, the definition of the concupiscence of the flesh after baptism as sin has been constantly and confidently attributed to Augustine, specifically to his treatise De nuptiis et concupiscentia, and this is demonstrably wrong.”

And so, in the Apology, defending Luther’s view, Melanchthon writes, “Sin is forgiven in Baptism, not that it no longer is, but it is not imputed.” [Rex uses Tappert and gives the page number 105]. And so Rex says further, “So I went back to the Patrolgia Latina, which follows the Benedictine edition based on a wide range of Roman and French manuscripts, to find the following words: ‘If somebody asks … why, if this concupiscence of the flesh can remain in the baptised parent and not be sin, it can still be sin in the offspring: the answer is, that concupiscence of the flesh is remitted in baptism not so that it is not, but so that it is not accounted as sin.’ (PL 44.430).

And so Rex concludes, “If we take the trouble to verify this crucial citation, we find that it is the Catholic doctrine, not the Lutheran doctrine, that derives from Augustine. And since Augustine in effect invented the theological concept of original sin, I believe that we are perfectly justified in accepting his account of it rather than Luther’s.”

There then follows (in the discussion string) a long question of whether indeed Augustine’s words, highlighted in bold above, defend the Catholic doctrine or the Lutheran one. Here are my comments:

Let’s return to Augustine’s original question about how children born of baptised parents are born in original sin, because it is an important one. From Augustine’s answer, we can derive that:

1) Baptism renders the concupiscence “not sin”. The concupiscence that remains after baptism is not sin–not in any sense at all, proper or improper. This is what Augustine means when he says “it is not accounted as sin”. Not “It is sin, but God decides not to count it as sin”, but “It is not sin, and therefore is not accounted as sin”.

2) There are two types of sin (original and actual) not three (+ concupiscence). Correct me if I am wrong, but in Augustine’s thought concupiscence is the bearer of original sin which gives rise to actual sin. As all are conceived of parents who are concupiscent (even parents who have been baptised and therefore are free of original sin), the one conceived is born concupiscent, and (until baptised) with the accompanying result of original sin.

3) Baptism alone renders concupiscence “not sin”. Unlike original sin, purity from sin cannot be inherited by offspring through conception. Christ did not receive his purity from sin from his immaculate mother; on the contrary, she received her immaculate condition from him. Without baptism, concupiscence carries original sin and leads to actual sin.

Hence Augustine is speaking of real and not simply imputed righteousness after sin.

Does that make sense?

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15 Responses to If Original Sin has been removed from baptised parents, how come their kids still get it?

  1. Lucian says:

    I myself never thought at this while having my own battle to believe in original sin. — still, I think I would’ve thought at concupiscence. (But concupiscence as a sin was also one of these problems — though I was quite an [extremely sinful] gnostic for the larger part of my life).

  2. Lucian says:

    I myself never thought at this while having my own battle to believe in original sin. — still, I think I would’ve thought at concupiscence. (But concupiscence as a sin was also one of these problems — though I was quite an [extremely sinful] gnostic for the larger part of my life).

  3. Christine says:

    Christ did not receive his purity from sin from his immaculate mother; on the contrary, she received her immaculate condition from him. Without baptism, concupiscence carries original sin and leads to actual sin.

    Makes perfect sense.

  4. Lucian says:

    And why in God’s Holy Name does it do THAT, Christine? — Just curious.

  5. Christine says:

    Lucian, I don’t think I can answer that until you clarify your original post above; I’m not quite sure what it is you are saying.

  6. Lucian says:

    concupiscence carries original sin — This statement is very problematic.

  7. Christine says:

    Baptism alone renders concupiscence “not sin”. Unlike original sin, purity from sin cannot be inherited by offspring through conception.

    So am I understanding correctly, that post-Baptismal concupiscence in Catholic doctrine is the “inclination” to sin but is in and of itself not “actual sin” whereas Lutherans would view it as “actual” sin that God forgives for Christ’s sake?

    That does make it seem like there are “three” types of sin.

    concupiscence carries original sin —

    But the full context was:

    Without baptism, concupiscence carries original sin and leads to actual sin.

    We are all subject to concupiscence since the Fall.

  8. Lucian says:

    The statement still remaines problematic.

  9. Schütz says:

    Great discussion guys. Keep it up.

    Honestly, I think the statement “concupiscence carries original sin” is problematic too–I used it because I didn’t want to say that “before baptism, concupiscence is sin”, because we know (as I have stated) that there are only two types of sin: original and actual–and Eastern Christians (do you fall in that camp Lucian?) don’t hold to original sin either.

    I need to check this one out a bit further I think. But what we can agree on is that Augustine did not mean by his statement that concupiscence after baptism really is sin but simply not imputed. He meant it really isn’t sin. Full stop.

  10. Lucian says:

    Eastern Christians (do you fall in that camp Lucian?) don’t hold to original sin either.

    I’m glad You know this, Mr. Schuetz … `cause I’ve been an Orthodox believer my entire life, and I’ve only recently (`bout 2 yrs. ago) found it out … via the Net, by all means! — Yeah, yeah, yeah, … I know … real pathetic, huh? [OK, guys, have all the fun You want about it, and just laugh Your socks off about this, and then we’ll maybe continue this discussion later, … OK?]. Bye!

  11. Dixie says:

    Late on this discussion as usual but I certainly don’t understand the statement Eastern Christians don’t hold to original sin either. We do understand there to be original (some call it ancestral) sin…we just don’t understand it in the same way as in the west. We don’t believe in imputed guilt.

  12. Christine says:

    Here’s what the Catechism says:

    Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

  13. Schütz says:

    Thanks Dixie. More on this would be interesting.

    And some question has been raised, in the latest paper from the International Theological Commission, as to whether original sin alone (without actual sin) does in fact necessarily condemn one to eternal damnation.

  14. Lucian, the ill-intentioned and mean-spirited orthodox says:

    the latest paper from the International Theological Commission

    That pretty much says it all about how Catholics do their Theology.

  15. Lucian, the ill-intentioned and mean-spirited orthodox says:

    the latest paper from the International Theological Commission

    That pretty much says it all about how Catholics do their Theology.

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