How does one reconcile the idea in modern democracy that every person will be judged purely based on their own actions, with the doctrine of the belief in the state of sin in which humanity exists since the fall of Man?

This is especially relevant with respect to people who lived before the advent of Christianity, where there are no external factors such as the belief in a sacrifical crucifixion to "restore the balance", so to speak (unless a kind of retroactive effect of this on these people is believed in, violating causality).

It is clear that the two principles are logically incompatible with each other, as evidenced by the dogma of total depravity telling us, even in its highly softened Roman Catholic form, that man cannot "be justified before God by his own works, …without the grace of God through Jesus Christ". On the other hand, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, arguably the foundational document of modern democracy, in Article 11, states that

  1. Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.

  2. No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

If it is in fact the case that they cannot be reconciled within the same logically consistent system, in what ways and domains is the subsequent doublethink applied?

  • 2
    Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange. Interesting question,but because site discusses the beliefs of many different Christian denominations and traditions, you need to specify the Christian tradition or denomination from which you seek answers. When you have a moment, please take the Christianity Stack tour to learn more about us: christianity.stackexchange.com/tour This is how we are different to other sites: christianity.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1808/…
    – Lesley
    Oct 18, 2018 at 7:40
  • Thanks for your comment Lesley, and I would agree with you with regard to questions regarding concepts that do not exist in some sects of Christianity. However, I was not aware of any sects which categorically reject the doctrine of original sin, and as such I was interested in answers appertaining to a denomination of Christianity without restriction on what it might be. Oct 19, 2018 at 4:47

3 Answers 3


Original sin is not so much an action of a person, but rather a position into which one is born. As such, the idea of justice (merit of reward or punishment) does not even enter the equation in understanding original sin.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Gen 2:7

The sin of Adam was doing what was forbidden.

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? Gen 3:11

Here's the question. Did Adam die that same day? Not physically, right? Adam was cast from the garden and lived with Eve and children for years thereafter.

Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. ... And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. Gen 3:23, 5:5

So, did God lie because Adam did not die the day he ate? Or is there more to the story? There is; in what sense did Adam die?

Adam died spiritually. It is into that state, that position, that all are born. It is not because of your action good or bad, but simply is a state of fact.

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Cor 15:22

The word "die" is present tense. We are born physically alive and spiritually dead. (to be clear, some religions will teach all people are born with a "light", alive spiritually, that may or may not go "out" later in life, but this is the Christianity explanation)

Flesh gives birth to flesh. Spirit gives birth to spirit. We must be born again.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. John 3:6-7

Now, as mentioned, justice is defined as merited rewards or punishment. It should be clear by now that the concept of justice does not even apply to the idea of original sin. We are born dead. We didn't do anything upon exiting the womb either good or bad. Justice does not even apply. We are simply born dead.

To apply justice to original sin would be akin to believing that good works will merit your salvation.

God, however, has provided a way out of death. It is called Christ Jesus the Son of the Living God. It is salvation by grace through faith.

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Eph 2:8

  • The question was not about applying justice to original sin, but on how both can coexist in a philosophical sense within a democratic society. As you said, original sin is not about the actions of a person - that was part of the premise of the question. The key was to present an explanation for how one can reconcile the existence of both principles in an absolute sense. This answer merely says that one of these principles (namely, the democratic principle of justice) is inapplicable to the domain of the other - and hence they do not philosophically coexist within the same system. Oct 19, 2018 at 12:09
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    What do you mean "absolute sense"? Orginal sin is a state. Justice applies to action (good or bad).
    – SLM
    Oct 19, 2018 at 15:19
  • Exactly - and the answer should have explained why bearing a burden which doesn't relate to their actions is (in)compatible with modern democratic values of justice. Oct 21, 2018 at 3:55
  • We all bear burdens not always or necessarily related to our actions. It's the way it is. Remember when someone asked Jesus about who sinned father or mother to explain why someone was born blind (John 9)? That's the idea of the first sentence. Original sin is a state you are in, not a reward/punishment for your action.
    – SLM
    Oct 21, 2018 at 16:59
  • Unfortunately, "it's the way it is" almost never works as a good answer for "why?" Oct 21, 2018 at 17:02

First: God's ethical system was instituted through Moses and required an animal sacrifice for the sins of the people. However, this sacrifice was for specific sins and therefore had to be repeated for each one. The sacrifce was an adjunct to the law which showed God's undeserved kindness (Grace). The idea was that the person need not sufffer the consequences of their action, but rather a substitute to atone for it.

Second: The government system was based on a priesthood where the laws were unalterable and the high priest was decided tribally. However, this changed to a kingship thus splitting the government into a King and High Priest. The king was supposed to be selected by God, while the priesthod continued on tribal lines: i.e. the tribe of Levite.

Third: The Jews used the sacrificial system to undermine the laws, basically allowed the people to sin and sacrifice on the premise God cannot break His word and therefore must restore sinners to Him when they sacrifice. Thus Israel fell into apostasy and prompted God to divorce her.

Forth: Jesus was sent by God to recombine the Kingship and Priesthood thus restoring God's original government. When the Jews rejected Jesus, he turned his attention to the Gentiles to make the Jews envious and hopefully repent and turn back to God. Jesus embodied the Mosaic Law into three commands:

1) Love God with all your mind, body, and soul.

2) Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

3) Love one another as I have loved you.

Fifth: The Levitical priesthood under Judaism was replaced by the Melchesadic under Jesus. The sacrifice of Jesus therefore replaced the existing sacrifices as a one time only for all sins. This results in two consequences: 1) the sacrifice was no longer in the hands of the sinner, but now at the discression of Jesus himself; and 2) the critera was not based on external laws, but internal faith that Jesus is God's biological son.

We need to separate secular behaviour from ethical because most modern governments today regard actions as legal or illegal and not moral or ethical. This allows governments to pass laws which are legal, but immoral, and, illegal, but ethical. Thus, you can do something ethical and be jailed for it as illegal.

God's laws are primarially prohibitive: stating what you cannot/must not do. This gives everyone the freedom to do everything else. Human law, however, opposes that by claiming it is restrictive and therefore proposes a permisive system: stating what your rights to act are. This prevents everyone from doing anything the law does not sanction. To do an action requires it to be in the law and therefore forces the people to push for legalisation. With God's laws however, there is no need to legislate acceptable action. This is why the old testament law still remains the same today as when it was first inaugurated.

It may be argued that democracy resides in the evil and sinful aspect of the logically consistent system and the reason it, capitalism, and human rights will be replaced, so there is no doublethink.

Hope that helps

  • I accepted this answer because it addressed the main point of the coexistence of democratic principles with religious values - namely, using the view that doctrine takes precedence over human principles. Oct 19, 2018 at 12:06

Despite that our justice system only judges people by their own actions, versus the actions of another, people in modern democracys inherit the consequences of actions performed by others all the time, for example, a drug addict mother goes to jail for her own actions, yet, her newborn child, who is addicted to drugs, ends up suffering health problems and parceled out to a foster home. The newborn baby suffering for the bad decisions of another (her mother) in modern democracys is no different than mankind suffering from the original sin of the one we descended from, namely, Adam, in scripture, who made bad choices. The original sin of Adam, in scripture, resulted in suffering and death for all.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, (Romans 5:12)

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