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Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is the Christian doctrine of humanity's state of sin resulting from the fall of man, stemming from Adam's rebellion in Eden. 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.
The concept of original sin was first alluded to in the 2nd century by Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons in his controversy with certain dualist Gnostics. Other church fathers such as Augustine also developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalm 51:5. Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose and Ambrosiaster considered that humanity shares in Adam's sin, transmitted by human generation. Augustine's formulation of original sin was popular among Protestant reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who equated original sin with concupiscence, affirming that it persisted even after baptism and completely destroyed freedom. Within Roman Catholicism, the Jansenist movement, which the Church then declared heretical, also maintained that original sin destroyed freedom of will. On the other hand, some modern liberal Protestants deny that the doctrine has a basis in Scripture.
Jewish theologians are divided in regard to the cause of what is called "original sin". Some teach that it was due to Adam's yielding to temptation in eating of the forbidden fruit and has been inherited by his descendants; the majority, however, do not hold Adam responsible for the sins of humanity, teaching that, in Genesis 8:21 and 6:5-8, God recognized that Adam's sins are his alone. However, Adam is recognized by some as having brought death into the world by eating the forbidden fruit. Because of his sin, his descendants will live a mortal life, which will end in death of their bodies. The doctrine of "inherited sin" is not found in most of mainstream Judaism. Although some in Orthodox Judaism place blame on Adam for overall corruption of the world, and though there were some Jewish teachers in Talmudic times who believed that death was a punishment brought upon humanity on account of Adam's sin, that is not the dominant view in most of Judaism today. Modern Judaism generally teaches that humans are born sin-free and untainted, and choose to sin later and bring suffering to themselves. The concept of inherited sin is also not found in any real form in Islam. Some interpretations of original sin are rejected by other Christian theologies.
The formalized doctrine of original sin was first developed in the 2nd-century by Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons, in his struggle against Gnosticism. Irenaeus contrasted their doctrine with the view that the Fall was a step in the wrong direction by Adam, with whom, Irenaeus believed, his descendants had some solidarity or identity. Irenaeus believed that Adam's sin had grave consequences for humanity, that it is the source of human sinfulness, mortality and enslavement to sin, and that all human beings participate in his sin and share his guilt.
The Greek Fathers emphasized the cosmic dimension of the Fall, namely that since Adam human beings are born into a fallen world, but held fast to belief that man, though fallen, is free. They thus did not teach that human beings are deprived of free will and involved in total depravity, which is one understanding of original sin. During this period the doctrines of human depravity and the inherently sinful nature of human flesh were taught by Gnostics, and orthodox Christian writers took great pains to counter them. Christian Apologists insisted that God's future judgment of humanity implied humanity must have the ability to live righteously.
Augustine of Hippo (354–430) taught that Adam's sin is transmitted by concupiscence, or "hurtful desire", resulting in humanity becoming a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd), with much enfeebled, though not destroyed, freedom of will. 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. Augustine insisted that concupiscence was not a being but a bad quality, the privation of good or a wound. 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. 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.
Augustine articulated his explanation in reaction to Pelagianism, which insisted that humans have of themselves, without the necessary help of God's grace, the ability to lead a morally good life, and thus denied both the importance of baptism and the teaching that God is the giver of all that is good. Pelagius claimed that the influence of Adam on other humans was merely that of bad example. Augustine held that the effects of Adam's sin are transmitted to his descendants not by example but by the very fact of generation from that ancestor. A wounded nature comes to the soul and body of the new person from his/her parents, who experience libido (or concupiscence). Augustine's view was that human procreation was the way the transmission was being effected. He did not blame, however, the sexual passion itself, but the spiritual concupiscence present in human nature, soul and body, even after baptismal regeneration. Christian parents transmit their wounded nature to children, because they give them birth, not the "re-birth". Augustine used Ciceronian Stoic concept of passions, to interpret St. Paul's doctrine of universal sin and redemption. In that view, also sexual desire itself as well as other bodily passions were consequence of the original sin, in which pure affections were wounded by vice and became disobedient to human reason and will. As long as they carry a threat to the dominion of reason over the soul they constitute moral evil, but since they do not presuppose consent, one cannot call them sins. Humanity will be liberated from passions, and pure affections will be restored only when all sin has been washed away and ended, that is in the resurrection of the dead.
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. The Latin Church Fathers who followed Augustine adopted his position, which became a point of reference for Latin theologians in the Middle Ages. In the later medieval 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". 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,' 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".
In the works of John Cassian (ca. 360 – 435), Conference XIII recounts how the wise monk Chaeremon, of whom he is writing, responded to puzzlement caused by his own statement that "man even though he strive with all his might for a good result, yet cannot become master of what is good unless he has acquired it simply by the gift of Divine bounty and not by the efforts of his own toil" (chapter 1). In chapter 11, Cassian presents Chaeremon as speaking of the cases of Paul the persecutor and Matthew the publican as difficulties for those who say "the beginning of free will is in our own power", and the cases of Zaccheus and the good thief on the cross as difficulties for those who say "the beginning of our free will is always due to the inspiration of the grace of God", and as concluding: "These two then; viz., the grace of God and free will seem opposed to each other, but really are in harmony, and we gather from the system of goodness that we ought to have both alike, lest if we withdraw one of them from man, we may seem to have broken the rule of the Church's faith: for when God sees us inclined to will what is good, He meets, guides, and strengthens us: for 'At the voice of thy cry, as soon as He shall hear, He will answer thee'; and: 'Call upon Me', He says, 'in the day of tribulation and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me'. And again, if He finds that we are unwilling or have grown cold, He stirs our hearts with salutary exhortations, by which a good will is either renewed or formed in us."
Cassian did not accept the idea of total depravity, on which Martin Luther was to insist. He taught that human nature is fallen or depraved, but not totally. Augustine Casiday states that, at the same time, Cassian "baldly asserts that God's grace, not human free will, is responsible for 'everything which pertains to salvation' – even faith." Cassian pointed out that people still have moral freedom and one has the option to choose to follow God. Colm Luibhéid says that, according to Cassian, there are cases where the soul makes the first little turn, but in Cassian's view, according to Casiday, any sparks of goodwill that may exist, not directly caused by God, are totally inadequate and only direct divine intervention ensures spiritual progress. and Lauren Pristas says that "for Cassian, salvation is, from beginning to end, the effect of God's grace."
Opposition to Augustine's ideas about original sin, which he had developed in reaction to Pelagianism, arose rapidly. 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. However, while the Church condemned Pelagius, it did not endorse Augustine entirely and, while Augustine's authority was accepted, he was interpreted in the light of writers such as Cassian. 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.
Martin Luther (1483–1546) asserted that humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception. The second article in Lutheranism's Augsburg Confession presents its doctrine of original sin in summary form:
It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. Rejected in this connection are the Pelagians and others who deny that original sin is sin, for they hold that natural man is made righteous by his own powers, thus disparaging the sufferings and merit of Christ.
Luther, however, also agreed with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (that Mary was conceived free from original sin) by saying:
[Mary] is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her.
Protestant Reformer John Calvin (1509–1564) developed a systematic theology of Augustinian Protestantism by interpretation of Augustine of Hippo's notion of original sin. 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.
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.
The Council of Trent (1545–1563), while not pronouncing on points disputed among Catholic theologians, condemned the teaching that in baptism the whole of what belongs to the essence of sin is not taken away, but is only cancelled or not imputed, and declared the concupiscence that remains after baptism not truly and properly "sin" in the baptized, but only to be called sin in the sense that it is of sin and inclines to sin.
In 1567, soon after the close of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius V went beyond Trent by sanctioning Aquinas's distinction between nature and supernature in Adam's state before the Fall, condemned the identification of original sin with concupiscence, and approved the view that the unbaptized could have right use of will.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans.
Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin".
As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").
The Catholic Church teaches that every human person born on this earth is made in the image of God. Within man "is both the powerful surge toward the good because we are made in the image of God, and the darker impulses toward evil because of the effects of Original Sin." Furthermore, it explicitly denies that we inherit guilt from anyone, maintaining that instead we inherit our fallen nature. In this it differs from the Calvinism/Protestant position that each person actually inherits Adam's guilt, and teaches instead that "original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants ... but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man". "In other words, human beings do not bear any 'original guilt' from Adam and Eve's particular sin."
The Church has always held baptism to be "for the remission of sins", and, as mentioned in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 403, infants too have traditionally been baptized, though not guilty of any actual personal sin. The sin that through baptism was remitted for them could only be original sin, with which they were connected by the very fact of being a human. The first comprehensive theological explanation of this practice of baptizing infants, guilty of no actual personal sin, was given by Saint Augustine of Hippo, not all of whose ideas on original sin have been adopted by the Catholic Church. Indeed the Church has condemned the interpretation of some of his ideas by certain leaders of the Protestant Reformation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that in "yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state ... original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed"—a state and not an act" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 404). This "state of deprivation of the original holiness and justice ... transmitted to the descendants of Adam along with human nature" (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 76) involves no personal responsibility or personal guilt on their part (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 405). Personal responsibility and guilt were Adam's, who because of his sin, was unable to pass on to his descendants a human nature with the holiness with which it would otherwise have been endowed, in this way implicating them in his sin. The doctrine of original sin thus does not impute the sin of the father to his children, but merely states that they inherit from him a "human nature deprived of original holiness and justice", which is "transmitted by propagation to all mankind".
In the theology of the Catholic Church, original sin is regarded as the general condition of sinfulness, that is (the absence of holiness and perfect charity) into which humans are born, distinct from the actual sins that a person commits. This teaching explicitly states that "original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants". In other words, human beings do not bear any "original guilt" from Adam's particular sin, which is his alone. The prevailing view, also held in Eastern Orthodoxy, is that human beings bear no guilt for the sin of Adam. The Catholic Church teaches: "By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free."
The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is that Mary was conceived free from original sin: "the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." The doctrine sees her as an exception to the general rule that human beings are not immune from the reality of original sin.
The Eastern Orthodox's version of original sin is the view that sin originates with the Devil, "for the devil sinneth from the beginning. (1 John iii. 8)". They acknowledge that the introduction of ancestral sin into the human race affected the subsequent environment for humanity (see also traducianism). However, they never accepted Augustine of Hippo's notions of original sin and hereditary guilt.
Orthodox Churches accept the teachings of John Cassian, as do Catholic Churches eastern and western, in rejecting the doctrine of Total Depravity, by teaching that human nature is "fallen", that is, depraved, but not totally. Augustine Casiday states that Cassian "baldly asserts that God's grace, not human free will, is responsible for 'everything which pertains to salvation' – even faith." Cassian points out that people still have moral freedom and one has the option to choose to follow God. Colm Luibhéid says that, according to Cassian, there are cases where the soul makes the first little turn, while Augustine Casiday says that, in Cassian's view, any sparks of goodwill that may exist, not directly caused by God, are totally inadequate and only direct divine intervention ensures spiritual progress. and Lauren Pristas says that "for Cassian, salvation is, from beginning to end, the effect of God's grace."
Eastern Orthodoxy accepts the doctrine of ancestral sin: "Original sin is hereditary. It did not remain only Adam and Eve's. As life passes from them to all of their descendants, so does original sin." "As from an infected source there naturally flows an infected stream, so from a father infected with sin, and consequently mortal, there naturally proceeds a posterity infected like him with sin, and like him mortal."
The Orthodox Church in America makes clear the distinction between "fallen nature" and "fallen man" and this is affirmed in the early teaching of the Church whose role it is to act as the catalyst that leads to true or inner redemption. Every human person born on this earth bears the image of God undistorted within themselves. In the Orthodox Christian understanding, they explicitly deny that humanity inherited guilt from anyone. Rather, they maintain that we inherit our fallen nature. While humanity does bear the consequences of the original, or first, sin, humanity does not bear the personal guilt associated with this sin. Adam and Eve are guilty of their willful action; we bear the consequences, chief of which is death."
On whether Mary actually ever sinned, or was stained by original sin, the view of the Eastern Orthodox Church varies, though there is general agreement that she was cleansed from sin at the Annunciation.
The original formularies of the Church of England also continue in the Reformation understanding of Original Sin. In the Thirty-Nine Articles, Article IX "Of Original or Birth-sin" states:
Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is ingendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, Φρονεμα σαρκος, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.
However, more recent doctrinal statements (e.g. the 1938 report Doctrine in the Church of England) permit a greater variety of understandings of this doctrine. The 1938 report summarizes:
Man is by nature capable of communion with God, and only through such communion can he become what he was created to be. "Original sin" stands for the fact that from a time apparently prior to any responsible act of choice man is lacking in this communion, and if left to his own resources and to the influence of his natural environment cannot attain to his destiny as a child of God.
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.
Seventh-day Adventists believe that humans are inherently sinful due to the fall of Adam, but they do not totally accept the Augustinian/Calvinistic understanding of original sin, taught in terms of original guilt, but hold more to what could be termed the "total depravity" tradition. Seventh-day Adventists have historically preached a doctrine of inherited weakness, but not a doctrine of inherited guilt. According to Augustine and Calvin, humanity inherits not only Adam's depraved nature but also the actual guilt of his transgression, and Adventists look more toward the Wesleyan model.
In part, the Adventist position on original sin reads:
The nature of the penalty for original sin, i.e., Adam's sin, is to be seen as literal, physical, temporal, or actual death – the opposite of life, i.e., the cessation of being. By no stretch of the scriptural facts can death be spiritualised as depravity. God did not punish Adam by making him a sinner. That was Adam’s own doing. All die the first death because of Adam’s sin regardless of their moral character – children included.
Early Adventists Pioneers (such as George Storrs and Uriah Smith) tended to de-emphasise the morally corrupt nature inherited from Adam, while stressing the importance of actual, personal sins committed by the individual. They thought of the "sinful nature" in terms of physical mortality rather than moral depravity. Traditionally, Adventists look at sin in terms of willful transgressions, and that Christ triumphed over sin. Adventism believes that Christ is both our Substitute and our Example. They base their belief on texts such as "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law." (1 John 3:4)
Though believing in the concept of inherited sin from Adam, there is no dogmatic Adventist position on original sin. Related articles dealing with the subject are publicly available on the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s official website on theological doctrine, the Biblical Research Institute. An article commenting on a progressive opinion of original sin can be found here.
According to the teachings and theology of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, all humans are born sinners, because of inheriting sin, corruption, and death from Adam. They teach that Adam was originally created perfect and sinless, but with free will; that the Devil, who was originally a perfect angel, but later developed feelings of pride and self-importance, seduced Eve, and then through her, persuaded Adam to disobey God, and to obey the Devil instead, rebelling against God's sovereignty, thereby making themselves sinners, and because of that, transmitting a sinful nature to all of their future offspring. Instead of destroying the Devil right away, as well as destroying the disobedient couple, God decided to allow time, test the loyalty of the rest of humankind, and to prove to the rest of the universe that man cannot be independent of God successfully, that man is lost without God's laws and standards, and can never bring peace to the earth, and that Satan was a deceiver, murderer, and liar.
The Witnesses believe that all men possess "inherited sin" from the "one man" Adam. And they teach that Verses such as Psalm 51:5, Job 14:4, Romans 5:12–22, and 1st Corinthians 15:22 teach that man is born corrupt, unclean, and crooked, and dies because of inherited sin and imperfection. They teach that inherited sin is the reason and cause for sickness and suffering, made worse by the Devil's wicked influence. They teach that Jesus is the "second Adam", being the sinless Son of God made Flesh, and the Messiah, and that He came to undo what the first Adam did in Eden; and that salvation and everlasting life can only be obtained through faith and obedience to the Second Adam. They believe that "sin" is "missing the mark" of God's standard of perfection, and that everyone is born a sinner, due to being the offspring of sinner Adam.
In the theology of the Latter Day Saint movement, because of the Fall of Adam and Eve, all people live in a fallen condition, separated from God and subject to physical death. However, according to its Articles of Faith, humans are not condemned by what many call the "original sin." In other words, men are not accountable for Adam's transgression in the Garden of Eden. According to Mormon belief, founder Joseph Smith said, "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." (Articles of Faith 1:2)
According to Mormon theology, the fall of Adam is viewed as a necessary transgression, needed both to fulfill the commandment to "multiply, and replenish the earth" (Genesis 1:28), as well as to usher in the rigors and opposition found in mortality—which is considered the only way that man can truly learn to appreciate and choose the good, and forsake evil. The ultimate goal of this process of learning and growth is to gain a fulness of joy. The LDS Church's view is that people could not have gained physical bodies or learned to use agency well without the fall of Adam. Mormons also do not believe that children come into the world with any guilt, because Jesus Christ atoned for original sin.
In Swedenborgianism, exegesis of the first 11 chapters of Genesis from The First Church, has a view that Adam is not an individual person. Rather, he is a symbolic representation of the "Most Ancient Church", having a more direct contact with heaven than all other successive churches. Swedenborg's view of original sin is referred to as hereditary evil, which passes from generation to generation. It cannot be completely abolished by an individual man, but can be tempered when someone reforms their own life, and are thus held accountable only for their own sins.
"O Adam, dwell with your wife in the Garden and enjoy as you wish but approach not this tree or you run into harm and transgression. Then Satan whispered to them in order to reveal to them their shame that was hidden from them and he said: 'Your Lord only forbade you this tree lest you become angels or such beings as live forever.' And he swore to them both that he was their sincere adviser. So by deceit he brought them to their fall: when they tasted the tree their shame became manifest to them and they began to sew together the leaves of the Garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: 'Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you that Satan was your avowed enemy?'" Sūrat al-Aʻrāf:19–22.
"They said: 'Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves souls. If You forgive us not and bestow not upon us Your mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers' " Surat al-Aʻraf :23
".. Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, so he went astray. Then his Lord chose him, and turned to him with forgiveness, and gave him guidance." Surat Ṭā Hāʼ:121–122
"(God) said: 'Get down (from the Garden), one of you an enemy to the other [i.e. Adam, Eve, and Satan]. On earth will be a dwelling-place for you and an enjoyment – for a short time'. He (God) said: 'Therein you shall live, and therein you shall die, and from it you shall be brought out [i.e. resurrected].' " Surat al-Aʻraf:24–25.
"That no burdened person (with sins) shall bear the burden (sins) of another. And that man can have nothing but what he does (of good and bad). And that his deeds will be seen, Then he will be recompensed with a full and the best [fair] recompense." Surat an-Najm:38–41
In a 2008 interview entitled "Aliens Are My Brother", granted to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Father José Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, stated: "In my opinion this possibility (of life on other planets) exists"; "intelligent beings, created by God may exist in outer space" and "some aliens could even be free from original sin" concluding "there could be (other beings) who remained in full friendship with their creator".
On 5 March 2009, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, another astronomer working at the Vatican Observatory, told the BBC, in relation to the search for Earth-like worlds about to be embarked upon by the Kepler Space telescope, that "we Jesuits are actively involved in the search for Earth-like planets. The idea that there could be other intelligent creatures made by God in a relationship with God is not contrary to traditional Judeo-Christian thought. The Bible has many references to, or descriptions of, non-human intelligent beings; after all, that's what angels are. Our cousins on other planets may even have their own salvation story – including other examples of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. We are open to whatever the Universe has for us."
With regard to the attribution to "the Vatican" of similar statements by individuals working for the Holy See, official spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, also a Jesuit, published on 21 February 2009 a declaration that they must not be mistaken for statements of the Holy See— they are only statements of this individual Jesuit priest.
Historian Robin Lane Fox argues that the foundation of the doctrine of original sin, that was accepted by the Church, was based on a mis-translation of Paul the Apostle's Epistle to the Romans (Romans 5:12-21) by Augustine, in his "On the Grace of Christ, and on Original Sin".
In an 8-page contribution, I.J.J. Spangenberg has stated:
Darwin, did not set out to undermine the grand narrative of Christianity, but his theory of evolution through natural selection led to conclusions that were diametrically opposite to those that Christians traditionally believed and proclaimed. The research carried out under the paradigm of evolution brought to light that Augustine’s convictions on 'original sin' and death could no longer be held. However, conservative theologians and church members are reluctant to acknowledge this (Bowler 2007:225). Nevertheless, a change in traditional theology is a prerequisite for any meaningful dialogue between religion and science.
That what Spangenberg calls "traditional theology" is not the only accepted contemporary theology is evident from the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr and others reviewed in Jerry D. Korsmeyer's Evolution and Eden and Tatha Wiley's Original Sin: Origins, Developments, Contemporary Meanings, and from the fact that, with regard to official Catholic Church doctrine on original sin, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church "explicitly acknowledges that the account of the fall in Genesis 2 and 3 uses figurative language". Difficulty for what Spangenberg calls the dialogue between religion and science arises, in the view of Korsmeyer, from a confrontation between a few popularizers of scientific knowledge and "religious fundamentalists who consider that their religious knowledge includes scientific conclusions drawn from the Bible".