Many Protestant denominations believe in the ideas of total depravity and a complete lack of free will. Total depravity to them means that their nature is so thoroughly corrupted by sin that it is incapable of producing anything good. There is nothing which the sinner can do which is pleasing in the sight of God. His soul, the source of all man's life, is dead. To them, man’s soul is like a pile of dung and God’s grace only cloaks this eternally depraved soul but never changes it. Man's mind is dead too. It is so darkened by sin that man cannot with his own mental power know any spiritual good. This corruption was the result of Adam’s sin, original sin. And further, man has absolutely no free will to change this God forsaken condition of depravity. What a pitiful situation for a child of God to be born into. If these ideas were true, Jesus died in vain. What did Jesus’ death accomplish for humanity? Just imagine, under this false theology, man is no better off after the death of Jesus than before his Coming. These ideas were declared heresy by the Council of Trent in the year 1545 A.D when these ideas were resurrected by the Protestant Reformation. But questions about original sin versus individual sin have been around since the 300s A.D. and still linger today.
Pelagianism is a heresy named after Pelagius, a British born monk and theologian who lived in Rome for a major part of his life (born 354 A.D. – died c. 420 A.D.). Pelagianism is based on the premise that original sin did not corrupt human nature and that the human will is still capable of choosing good or evil without Divine Grace from God. Thus, Adam’s sin set a bad example for his progeny, but his actions did not have the consequence of imputation of original sin. Pelagianism views Jesus’ role as setting a good example for humanity and thus counteracting Adam's bad example. Pelagian’s ideas ran as follows and created quite a stir in Christendom in the early Church:
1. Even if Adam had not sinned, Adam would have died.
2. Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.
3. Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.
4. The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ.
5. The (Mosaic Law) is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.
6. Even before the advent of Christ, there were men who were without sin.
On May 1, 418 A.D., in the presence of 200 bishops including Augustine, the Council of Carthage branded Pelagianism a heresy in eight canons. These cannons eventually became articles of faith binding on the universal Catholic Church:
1. Death did not come to Adam from a physical necessity, but through sin.
2. New-born children must be baptized on account of original sin.
3. Justifying grace not only avails for the forgiveness of past sins, but also gives assistance for the avoidance of future sins.
4. The grace of Christ not only discloses the knowledge of God's commandments, but also imparts strength to will and execute them.
5. Without God's grace, it is not merely more difficult, but absolutely impossible to perform good works.
6. Not out of humility, but in truth, must we confess ourselves to be sinners.
7. The saints refer the petition of the Our Father, "Forgive us our trespasses", not only to others, but also to themselves.
8. The saints pronounce the same supplication not from mere humility, but from truthfulness.
Some codices contain a ninth canon: Children dying without baptism do not go to a "middle place" since the non-reception of baptism excludes them from the "kingdom of heaven" and from "eternal life."
As you can see from this controversy, these questions about sin still linger with us to this day. Many Protestant denominations do not baptize their children until the age of thirteen for some ungodly reason. Many Christians still believe in the doctrine of total depravity. The Catholic Church has been firm in its position on original sin at least since the Council of Carthage. Does the truth lie somewhere in the middle? Is original sin transmitted with human nature, by propagation, and not by imitation? Is original sin born into our human nature genetically? Where in the Pauline doctrine does Paul equate baptism and original sin?
My theory is in line with Catholic Church teachings but with a little twist. The original sin of Adam was indeed imputed to humanity and it did corrupt our human nature. Original sin was a defect in our DNA. It was breed into humanity. Original sin remained with humanity until the appearance of Christ. But Christ redeemed us. Christ vanquished all sin even original sin. Christ purchased humanity for a price, his life. And what did that transaction produce: sin conquered and humanity freed from both original and individual sin. Original sin was washed clean. This genetic mutation was removed from humanity. Original sin no longer exists. It has been defeated, conquered, vanquished, beaten, broken, burned, disintegrated, buried and interned never to see the light of day again. Mary and her son were the forerunners of this new genealogy. We are the beneficiaries of this parentage.
Christ and the apostles never made distinctions between original sin and individual sin. Christ came and conquered sin, both original and individual. Christ achieved a triumph unattainable by us humans. Before the victory of Christ 2000 years ago, souls were allowed to leave Heaven pure but became tainted by original sin when they reached this fallen world. But since the death and resurrection of Christ, our souls are still manufactured by God as pure examples and instilled in us as perfect specimens in the New Kingdom here on earth. Yet because we still live in an unperfected world, we now sin by imitation of other sinners instead of imitating Christ. We imitate the created rather than our Creator. But Christ does offer forgiveness of individual sin and His Spirit offers protection from the evil spirits and their flaming, fiery darts. The Holy Spirit also extends perfection for the soul. So the process is as follows. Our soul begins as a perfected specimen of God and placed into His earthly Kingdom, only to follow the ungodly through our free will. When we finally grab hold of the Holy Spirit, we can begin the repairs to our tarnished souls and begin our journey home. But we must claim it, though.
Unbaptized infants are perfect in soul just as the baptized, yet the unbaptized will never receive the Spirit of God. Baptism brings the baptized within the Church, the body of Christ. The baptized are afforded the protection Christ won for you and you are afforded the gift of forgiveness of individual sin. The unbaptized begin the imitation of the sinner without ever getting the chance for remission of their individual sins and they accumulate these sins throughout their lifetime. The prize Christ freely gives is never bestowed to the unbaptized. Even the baptized must activate the power of the Spirit at some point in their life to affirm, possess and control the regenerating authority of the Spirit. It is the power of the Holy Spirit residing within you that will perfect you. Only when you shed individual sin accumulated during your lifetime and return to the road less traveled will you make a triumphant entry into the Kingdom of Heaven to meet God.
I know this is not the teaching of Augustine or the Catholic Church. It is Pelagian in nature with a different twist. Pelagianism does believe that Jesus provides atonement for our sins. In short, we have full control of our life, we are fully responsible for obeying God and we are fully responsible for every sin. Only through God’s grace and the gift of the Holy Spirit can we make good on our responsibility. We do have a burden to carry in this process. We only need ask God for forgiveness of our individual sins and use the power of the Holy Spirit to avoid sin. But you must have sufficient consciousness to recognize both the Holy Spirit and the evil around you. You cannot walk around with your head stuck in the sand, in a fog of depravity. You must hear, smell, see, taste and feel the evil around you and flee from it or defeat it. Stand up and fight. Put on the armor of battle of which Paul spoke. Today it would be a bullet proof helmet, night vision goggles, Kevlar body vest, steeled toe boots and an m16 in your hand, but armor just the same. This armor is the Holy Spirit.
I would like to think that this explains my life as I look back. I would like to think I was born a perfect being without original or individual sin even though I was born of sinful, biological parents. I did not inherit their sinfulness, thank God. I managed to manufacture my own and lived, practiced, multiplied sin with others until I activated the Spirit which was not my doing but that of the grace of God. He offered the time and place just as He chose when Jesus received the Spirit in the Jordan and began his ministry, or when He chose Paul on the way to Damascus or Constantine on his way to war. What if these men had not chosen to follow God’s will? What an amazing Spirit! He is in complete control of your spiritual life. He determines when, where, why and how. He gives the chances but your free will must take the leap. You must accept the challenge. Until then, you are left to your own devices molded by the devil and worldly possessions, power and position, the desires to get it, do it and be it. Only when you decide enough is enough, do you start living for Him, shed the sin you have accumulated and begin your progression to perfection.
God did impart Adam’s sin to mankind. But God, through His son Jesus, remitted those original sins of Adam. God freed man from the burdens of original sin so we can be imitators of Jesus. God does not refuse entrance of an unbaptized infant upon his/her sudden death, an infant, who because of his youth cannot commit sin of his own. God would never allow such an infant to suffer because of the sins of others. The Virgin Mary, conceived with the absence of original sin, was the first to benefit from Christ's victory over sin. She was preserved from all stain of original sin, and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life. Mary was human just like me and you. She was not God, as her Son was. Yet her Son undertook for us what God achieved for Mary. All souls are manufactured by God Himself in Heaven, pure and unblemished, and placed in our bodies upon conception. The disobedience of Adam nor the sins of the baby’s parents would not be sufficient to deny the risen soul of an unbaptized infant entrance into Heaven. God does not allow anything vile to enter heaven. He sent his son to vanquish original sin and allows forgiveness of individual sin. Baptism is necessary for salvation but it has nothing to do with original sin. Baptism forms a union with you and Christ through the Church but the power of the Holy Spirit gives you the authority to die to individual sin and cut individual sin from your life. Christ said that John the Baptist baptized with water but God promised a baptism with the Holy Spirit.
A true Christian is one who flees from sin. Can an unbaptized infant grow into a saint? Can a baptized infant grow into a heathen? I think the answer to both of these questions is in the affirmative. The fact that your parents were baptized or not, or were Christians or not, at your birth has nothing to do with your salvation. Granted, if they were baptized and professing Christians, your progression to perfection would possibly become less difficult and may begin at a much earlier stage in your life or you may never deviate from the path of righteousness at all. But the status of your earthly parents is not a precondition or determiner of your salvation. Your free will and obedience to the Father determines your redemptive state, but only with the aid of the paraclette, the Holy Spirit. Christ has come and gone but He did leave behind a part of Himself, His Spirit.
Unfortunately in our society today, the environment in which we are raised has such a huge influence on our lack of exposure to the genuine imitators of Jesus. We become enamored by depravity and we are lead to believe that depravity is rewarding and fulfilling. Depravity does not and will never lead to peace, joy and loving-kindness no matter how hard the depraved in our society try to convince you that it does. Radical Muslims, abortionists, homosexuals, pornographers, drug and alcohol abusers, sex offenders, and the greedy and vain are lost souls with an agenda on behalf of the evil one. They glorify depravity and society imitates this behavior and eventually accepts it as truth. The only truth represented by this behavior is the fact that the evil one still exist in this world and he disguises these pent-up, depraved desires as something good. Christ will come again but until then, you must grab hold of His Spirit for your protection. Who will stand up and declare these truths?