Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Original Sin and the Donum Superadditum

The introduction to "The Origin of Sin", Bavinck, Vol 3, pg 26, the editors write:

[In philosophy and other religions], outside of special revelation sin is either treated deistically in terms of human will alone or derived pantheistically from the very necessary nature of things.

Both views also found their way into Christianity. The British monk Pelagius rejected all notions of original sin and considered every person as having Adam's full moral choice of will. The fall did not happen at the beginning but is repeated in every human sin. Though the church rejected Pelagianism in its extreme form, Roman Catholicism maintained the notion of a less than completely fallen will, limiting the fall to the loss of the donum superadditum, which can only be restored by sacramental grace.

When the Reformation rejected Roman Catholic dualism, streams within Protestantism, notable rationalist groups such as the Socinians as well as the Remonstrants robbed robbed Christianity of its absolute character by dispensing with the need for grace in some measure. The image of God is regarded as the fully free will, which, like that of the pre-fall Adam, remains intact. While we are born with an inclination to sin, this inclination is not itself culpable; atonement is needed only for actual sin. Suffering is not necessarily linked to sin; it is simply part of our human condition.

Later on they discuss this donum superadditum in context:

The apostle Paul and after him Augustine were instructed by the contrasting model of Christ as the second Adam and placed the blame for universal and original sin at the feet of the first Adam. The only way to understand the crushing yoke of sin's miseries on all people is to believe that all share Adam's guilt. Augustine did not, however, adequately describe the transmission of guilt and pollution to Adam's posterity, and his understanding of concupiscence is too closely linked to spontaneous sexual desire. Roman Catholic scholastic theology modified this view to understand original sin as the loss of a superadded gift of grace (original righteousness) to which was added the active element of concupiscence. In Roman Catholic theology, the center of gravity shifted from concupiscence to loss of original righteousness. When concupiscence is not itself seen as sinful, it is hard to see what concrete effects still remain of original sin except for the imputation of Adam's trespass. The state of man after Adam's fall differs little from the pre-fallen Adam. We are left in only a state of "naked naturalness," not a state of depravity.

The Reformation opposed this Roman Catholic weakening of original sin. It is not just a loss of something but a total corruption of our nature. If we call this "concupiscence," we must define it in terms of the totality of human appetites. In this sense, contrary to Augustine, concupiscence is itself sin. …

The doctrine of original sin is one of the weightiest and most difficult subjects in Christian theology. Without it we cannot comprehend ourselves, and yet it remains finally an incomprehensible mystery to us. Adam's disobedience is the originating sin; that is the clear teaching of Scripture. How can that not be seen as arbitrary? Only by recognizing the organic unity and solidarity of the human race. This unity is first of all physical and organic, but, more importantly, also representative. Here too we must begin with Christ, who is our representative mediator in redemption. Physical unity and a realistic understanding of the transmission of sin is inadequate. For one thing, the strict parallel between Adam and Christ breaks down. How could Christ then, being truly human, Adam's son, be without sin? AMong human beings there is a moral solidarity that is greater than the physical. Reformed theology tries to explain this through the doctrine of the covenant--the covenant of works with Adam and the covenant of grace in Christ. The covenant of works and the covenant of grace are the forms by which the organism of humanity is maintained, also in a religious and ethical sense. This is God's ordinance (76-77).

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