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I've been debating on the issue of sinful nature. I know the textbook Christian position is that man inherits the sinful nature from Adam and Eve, who acquired it as a result of the Fall.

Because of this nature, generations after generations of humans commit mishaps and atrocities of all kinds. Since some Christians (perhaps most) say that the eating of the forbidden fruit was a sin, I wonder how Adam and Eve, in their pristine condition, could have committed this very first sin of mankind in the absence of the sinful nature. To have them sin would have been a Catch-22 situation. They couldn't have sinned without the sinful nature, yet they couldn't have acquired it if they hadn't committed the first sin.

Right now I've been assuming that eating the forbidden fruit was a sin. Of course if we deny its sinhood, we wouldn't face the above-mentioned dilemma. I've seen Christians insist that it was a sin, and their position commits them to the view that there are two types of sin. One does not require sinful nature, and the other does.

Their story, or put it more politely, theory, is undesirable from the perspective of Occam's Razor. They'd need to recognize two subcategories of sin, and the possibility that modern humans can commit sins without sinful nature, just as Adam and Eve did. However, it is a priori convincing to adopt a theory with fewer theoretical entities. This is not say that their story is absolutely wrong, but that it is to be adopted only if evidence can be produced in its favor.

A simpler, thus a priori more convincing, alternative is to claim that Adam and Eve were created with sinful nature, and they committed the first sin with sinful nature, just as we all do. With the two competing theories at hand, the burden of proof lies with the one that is more complicated, i.e. the one that assumes two types of sin.

For Christians assuming the more complicated theory, my question is: where in the Bible does it say that Adam and Even were created without sinful nature?

For Christians who consider the eating of the fruit as anything but a sin, my question is: who created the sinful nature? Some Christians say it spontaneously arose in Adam and Eve after the Fall, reluctant to acknowledge God as its maker. But this cop-out merely paraphrases 'who created the sinful nature' as another question: who invented the mechanism that produced the sinful nature? However hard those Christians try, they cannot remove the blame from God.

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Ok, I seriously considered closing this as too broad. But you've got a clear enough scope here I think. From the looks of if you're asking for the perspective of folks who accept the sin nature/original sin, and you're asking for an explanation of how the first sin happened. That's probably broad, but it may be narrow enough to fly here. Still might be a book (better yet, a thesis topic), but there may be a concise explanation that fits in the space of an answer. –  wax eagle Feb 3 at 14:11
Is this a question or an argument? I'm going to say it's more of an argument. Alleging that people are "copping out" is a bit rude. Downvoting because of the rude nature. –  Narnian Feb 3 at 14:28
If a Christian replaces one question with another, which he alleges as the 'answer', wouldn't it be right to say he is copping out? –  Apollyon Feb 3 at 14:45
This sounds to me a lot like asking, "How can someone drink if they aren't an alcoholic?" A Sinful nature provides an irresistable compulsion to sin, but even absent that, one can still partake in sin. Per Galatians 2:20, Christians are dead to sin, and yet the same author can write in Romans, "I find this law at work within me - I do what I do not want to do." –  Affable Geek Feb 3 at 18:40
Other than that, don't forget they are naked, so the sin. –  Elberich Schneider Feb 3 at 22:20
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Affable Geek, Narnian, David Stratton, fredsbend, Seek forgiveness Feb 4 at 4:09

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

2 Answers

The Vatican II Constitution Gaudium et Spes contains

Sacred Scripture teaches that man was created “toA the image of God,” is capable of knowing and loving his Creator, and was appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures that he might subdue them and use them to God’s glory.

As we read elsewhere in Holy Scripture God saw “all that he had made, and it was very good”.

[GS 12]

A. This is what the English translation has. A more usual translation of ad imaginem Dei would be to use in.

If Man was made in the image of God, as “very good”, it’s surely unlikely that he was created with a sinful nature, ready-made and complete with Original Sin. The Catechism agrees (my emphasis):

"Christ, ... in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation."2 It is in Christ, "the image of the invisible God,"3 that man has been created "in the image and likeness" of the Creator. It is in Christ, Redeemer and Savior, that the divine image, disfigured in man by the first sin, has been restored to its original beauty and ennobled by the grace of God.4


2. GS 22
3. Col 1:15, cf 2 Cor 4:4
4. Cf GS 22

However, Man was given free will. He had the ability to choose to obey God’s command, or to disobey it. From the Catechism:

God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.”26

Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.27

[CCC 1730]

26. GS 17; Sir 15:14.
27. St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4,4,3: PG 7/1,983.

Of his own accord, he turned away from his Creator and full and blessed perfection. This is what sullied his “very good” nature and caused the taint of sin which is passed down to his descendants.

The sinful nature was not created by God or inherited from him; it was created by Man. However God created the ability to originate that nature. This was alluded to by the serpent:

God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. [Gen 3:5]

At the time, Man did not know the difference between good and evil. He had never had to choose: he was walking with God in the cool of the day. The serpent was disingenuous — of course! — he did not explain that evil was turning away from God, using the free will. But Man certainly knew the difference between good and evil once he had done so.

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I have given you an up vote even though your answer is from only the Catholic view, and as a protestant I tend to search Scripture to find my answers. And yes I am fully aware that we use different Bibles, but I do not abrade anyone's Christian faith. –  Bye Feb 3 at 16:45
What is 'good' in God's eyes may not necessarily be good to ordinary people's mind. God thought that to slaughter innocent Egyptian firstborns was a 'good' move, but ordinary people wouldn't believe so. God also created poisonous plants and animals and the 'best' of all creation--Satan. All these things are far from good, so it wouldn't be surprising if he created man with a sinful nature and said it was 'good'. –  Apollyon Feb 4 at 3:02
It seems you have already formed your opinion. The Catholic position differs. (Answer updated) –  Andrew Leach Feb 4 at 7:13
@AndrewLeach Thanks for your reply. I am fully aware that my theory differs from the Catholic position. Apart from Catholic dogmata, could you offer scriptural evidence that man was created blemishless, i.e. without a sinful nature? The Genesis' "very good" verse does not work very well in this respect. –  Apollyon Feb 4 at 15:05
I don't believe I have to. The Church interprets Scripture, and it has interpreted "the image of God" and "very good" to mean just that. It appears you don't like that interpretation, although even a plain reading of those words (a la "Sola Scriptura") cannot yield anything different. –  Andrew Leach Feb 4 at 15:17
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This answer may not be backed up by a lot of Scripture, but perhaps we can give you an answer which will be acceptable.

Let's begin by trying to understand how pristine Adam and Eve were before they sinned and what sin is to begin with;

The original sin as you call it was their disobeying God's command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So the original sin was not eating of the tree itself it was doing so after God had said not to.

When Adam and Eve did eat of the tree all that changed about them was that they now knew what was right and what was wrong. It may be argued that until then they did not even know that disobeying God was wrong.

Be that as it may the fact remains that they did have curiosity, love and all of the other emotions of man.

So let's take a long look at how that original sin went down:

Quoted from the King James translation;

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

The word subtle also means cunning, and crafty

Genesis 3:2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: Genesis 3:3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

It appears that man is incapable of retelling anything without elaborating, which may have been the reason Eve added the do not touch part.

Genesis 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

In their pristine form as you call it they would be somewhat like little children, and do not children have to learn that when we say something is hot until they are burned hot doesn't really register with them. Jesus said:

Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

Genesis 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

In view of Mark 10:15 it appears that Jesus is saying we should be as trusting as a child. And if this was the pristine state of Adam and Eve then the next verse makes more sense.

Genesis 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

So we learn that Eve was gullible and ate the fruit from deception, but apparently Adam was not deceived, and as for the reason Adam ate that could take up a book. But the rest of Genesis chapter 3 tells us that they were both sorry that they had disobeyed God.

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I am well aware that Eve was deceived according to the Bible, but this part of the story is not incompatible with the theory that they were created with a sinful nature. One's sinful nature can lie dormant until one is tempted, right? –  Apollyon Feb 4 at 3:17
If that assertion that they already had a sin nature prior to the fall how do you account for their suddenly knowing that they were naked, and hiding that nakedness with fig leaves? –  Bye Feb 4 at 3:48
@Narnian Your edit is fine, but please note that that is the spelling directly from the King James version. –  Bye Feb 4 at 3:52
That's easy to account for, as long as we keep the sinful nature separate from the knowledge of the good and the evil in our theory. A priori, the two need not go hand in hand. –  Apollyon Feb 4 at 4:06
@CecilBeckum I know... it just bugs me... –  Narnian Feb 4 at 12:49
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