CATHOLIC BELIEFS

BELIEFS IN CATHOLICISM


Anima Sola (the "lonely soul") praying in the fires of purgatory

The Catholic Church stresses hierarchy, community and good works not individualism as is highlighted in Protestantism. The theology of the Catholic church is based in a large part on the ideas of the great 5th century Christian theologian St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas ((1224-74). Whether the Bible should be taken literally or not remains a contentious issue. St. Augustine is among those who argue that Genesis was not intended to be taken literally.

Peter Stanford wrote for the BBC: “Catholics share with other Christians a belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the son of God made man who came to earth to redeem humanity's sins through His death and resurrection. They follow His teachings as set out in the New Testament and place their trust in God's promise of eternal life with Him. Catholicism, however, is distinct from other Christian churches in both its organisation and its teaching. [Source: Peter Stanford, BBC, June 29, 2011 |::|]

The basic doctrines of Christianity are 1) the Incarnation, which states that God was present in Jesus throughout his life but did not interfere with his being and human being (according to Corinthians 5: 19, “God was in Christ reconciling himself."); 2) Christology, which says that Christ was a person in which the human and divine were always present; 3) the Trinity, which holds that God reveals himself through the Father (God), Son (Jesus) and the Holy Ghost; and 4) Atonement, the belief that Jesus died for the sins of everyone who has faith in God.

Sins are generally regarded as breaking the commandments. Thomas Aquinas described the Seven Deadly Sins: sloth, gluttony, pride, anger, envy, greed, and lust. The possibility of grace and redemption being available for to all sinners was the essence of Jesus's teachings. The Christian version of Confucius's Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is : "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law of the prophets."

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity britannica.com//Christianity ; History of Christianity history-world.org/jesus_christ ; BBC on Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/christ.htm ; Christian Answers christiananswers.net ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library www.ccel.org ; Bible: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Christian Denominations: Christianity.com christianity.com/church/denominations ; Christianity Comparison Charts religionfacts.com ; Difference between Christian Denominations Quoracom ; Holy See w2.vatican.va ; Catholic Online catholic.org ; Catholic Encyclopedia newadvent.org ; World Council of Churches, main world body for mainline Protestant churches oikoumene.org ; Wikipedia article on Protestantism Wikipedia ; Online Orthodox Catechism published by the Russian Orthodox Church orthodoxeurope.org ; Nihov's Worldwide Coptic Directory! directory.nihov.org

Catechism, the Vulgate and Excommunication

A catechism is a summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for the instruction of Christians. The beliefs and moral tenants of the Catholic Church are contained the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, a huge document that was released in an English translation in 1994 after more than 400 years of revision and updating.


page from a Vulgate manuscript, Psalm 61

The Vulgate is the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. It is an early translation of the Bible into Latin by St. Jerome, who lived around A.D. 400. The Catholic Old Testament contains 46 books, compared to 39 books in the Protestant version. The New Testaments for both religions have 27 books.

The Catholic Bible contains books and sections of books not found in Protestant Bibles. According to a post in Catholic Forums: “Protestants do not consider the deuterocanonical, also known as apocryphal, books inspired scripture while Catholics do. Most other also probably know that Ester and Daniel are slightly different between the Protestant and Catholic canon of scripture, the Catholics versions being a bit longer.

Deuterocanonical /Apocryphal books found in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant Bible: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, also called Ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, including the Letter of Jeremiah, 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees: Additional Sections in Common books: Additions to Esther (Esther 10:4-16:24), Additions to Daniel: Song of the Three cast into the firey furnace (Daniel 3:24-90), Story of Susanna (Daniel 13), The Idol Bel and the Dragon (Daniel 14).

Excommunication, or anathema, is when an individual is cut off from the sacraments and in some cases is not even allowed to interact with the faithful. An interdict is the equivalent of excommunication for a group of people or even a nation.

Doctrines of the Catholic Church

Roman Catholics believe that there is the only true form of Christianity — Catholicism. The Catholic faithful accept the teaching of Christ from the Bible, the laws of the church and the encyclicals of the Popes (according to the doctrine of papal infallibility).

Salvation is highly elaborated: Catholics believe that salvation is achieved through accepting Jesus, performing good deeds and gaining merit, and through faith. They also believe in papal primacy and special position of the Virgin Mary.

In Catholicism there is a lot of emphasis on suffering. Churches often have images of Christ with blood dripping from the crown of thrown on his head, the lashes from the Roman soldiers and from the nail wounds in his hands and feet.


Catholics believe in the Trinity: the belief that God is manifested through three entities, the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost, who are distinct and equal to one another. The Seven Sacraments are: 1) baptism, 2) confirmation, 3) Eucharist, 4) penance, 5) marriage, 6) ordinance and 7) anointing of the sick (unction).

Peter Stanford wrote for the BBC: “Catholic doctrine is based the scriptures and on the church's own traditions. It believes that its doctrines were revealed to the apostles and have been preserved in the continuous tradition ever since. There are several doctrinal issues where the Catholic Church has a distinct position: 1) in its devotion to Christ's mother, the Virgin Mary, who Catholics believe gave birth to Jesus without having sex first and who was raised body and soul into heaven where she occupies a special place interceding between God and His people; [Source: Peter Stanford, BBC, June 29, 2011 |::|]

2) in its belief in transubstantiation, that during the celebration of the mass when the priest repeats Christ's words from the Last Supper the bread and wine become Christ's body and blood, though no change takes place in their outward appearance; 3) in its opposition, as stated in the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae vitae, and reiterated on numerous occasions by Pope John Paul II, to artificial methods of contraception which, it says, interfere with the transmission of human life and the sacred purpose of sex; 4) in its unflinching condemnation of abortion as the destruction of human life, which, it believes, begins at the moment of conception |::|

Early Christian Theologians

Theology according to historian Daniel Boorstein was "a Western creation nurtured in Hellenist Alexandria" and was "both a producer and a by-product of Christianity." Whereas the myth of the Gods and philosophy were separated under the Greeks. They were united in theology as Moses was made into a philosopher as well religious leader.

Philo of Alexandria (late first century B.C. to first century A.D.) is considered the father of theology. A rich Jewish nobleman, who was regarded as a quite a fun-loving guy, he was one of the first to scrutinize Jewish-Christian doctrine using Platonic philosophical reasoning.

Another influential thinker was Origen (185?-254), an Alexandrian Greek who castrated himself to ensure his purity and became head of the leading Christian theological academy at the age of 18. He is credited with giving Christianity some analytical credibility by incorporating elements of Greek philosophy but was unsuccessful making it hold up to the scrutiny of history.

Augustine (A.D. 354—430)


Saint Augustine by Goya

St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, in what is now Algeria, from 396 to 430, was one of the greatest theologians in history and his ideas still influence Christian thought today. According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “St. Augustine’s groundbreaking philosophy infused Christian doctrine with Neoplatonism. He is famous for being an inimitable Catholic theologian and for his agnostic contributions to Western philosophy. He argues that skeptics have no basis for claiming to know that there is no knowledge. In a proof for existence similar to one later made famous by René Descartes, Augustine says, “[Even] If I am mistaken, I am.” He is the first Western philosopher to promote what has come to be called "the argument by analogy" against solipsism: there are bodies external to mine that behave as I behave and that appear to be nourished as mine is nourished; so, by analogy, I am justified in believing that these bodies have a similar mental life to mine. Augustine believes reason to be a uniquely human cognitive capacity that comprehends deductive truths and logical necessity. Additionally, Augustine adopts a subjective view of time and says that time is nothing in reality but exists only in the human mind’s apprehension of reality. He believes that time is not infinite because God “created” it. [Source: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, iep.utm.edu /~/]

“Augustine tries to reconcile his beliefs about freewill, especially the belief that humans are morally responsible for their actions, with his belief that one’s life is predestined. Though initially optimistic about the ability of humans to behave morally, at the end he is pessimistic, and thinks that original sin makes human moral behavior nearly impossible: if it were not for the rare appearance of an accidental and undeserved Grace of God, humans could not be moral. Augustine’s theological discussion of freewill is relevant to a non-religious discussion regardless of the religious-specific language he uses; one can switch Augustine’s “omnipotent being” and “original sin” explanation of predestination for the present day “biology” explanation of predestination; the latter tendency is apparent in modern slogans such as “biology is destiny.” /~/

Carl A. Volz wrote: “Augustine combined the creative power of Tertullian and the intellectual breadth of Origen with the ecclesiastical sense of Cyprian, the dialectical acumen of Aristotle with the idealistic enthusiasm and profound speculation of Plato, the practical sense of the Latin with the agile intellect of the Greek. Augustine is the greatest philosopher of the patristic age and arguably the most important and influential theologian of the church after the New Testament. The doctrinal magisterium of the church has probably followed no other theological author so often as it has followed him, certainly in the West.” [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu, 1997]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)

Thomas Aquinas (1224-74) is regarded by the Catholic church as its greatest theologian and philosopher. He wrote Summa Theoligoca , considered one of the greatest books ever written. It's purpose was nothing less than trying to answer all of the great questions about God, humanity and the universe. He was canonized in 1323 and declared a doctor of the church in 1567. Based on the number of books written about him (1,424 in 1999 in the Library of Congress collection), Thomas Aquinas is the world's 27th most famous person. He ranks behind Jesus and Wagner but ahead of Cervantes and St. Paul.


Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas (also known as Thomas of Aquino) was born in the castle of Roccasecca, near Naples. His father was a count. He received an early education at the nearby abbey of Monte Cassino and entered the University of Naples at the age of 16. While he was there he became a Dominican friar, much to his family's dismay. His brother captured and imprisoned him in Roccasecca. He refused to back down from his commitment to be a monk, continuing his studies in his cell. After two years he escaped down a rope ladders and was sent by the Dominicans to Cologne to study under Albertus Magnus, regarded as the most learned man of his time. He later studied in Paris.

In 1252, Thomas was called to Rome. He spent the rest of his life lecturing, preaching, writing and studying, chiefly in Italian cities and Paris. He died at the age of 49 while on his way to attend a church council in Lyons. His literary output was enormous. Sometimes he dictated to several scribes on different subjects at the same times. His primary works were Summa Contra Gentiles and Summa Theologica .

Thomas has been linked to the rise of learning and scholarship that took place during the time in which he lived, when many of Europe's first universities were founded and education w as linked with the church. Early thinkers like Thomas accepted Christian doctrines as beyond dispute but also studied and translated the ancient Greek philosophers, particularly Plato and Aristotle, and set about harmonizing their ideas with Christianity.

Seven Deadly Sins and Other Contributions of Thomas Aquinas

The writing and theories of St. Thomas Aquinas are the cornerstone of the Roman Catholic church. In 1268-73, Aquinas merged scientific inquiry and Christian thought while ruminating about Aristotle's physical studies and trying to figure the best way to investigate God's plan for mankind. Thomas held that there were two sources of knowledge: revelation (theology) and reason (philosophy) and suggested that revelation was a divine source of knowledge that revealed truths that must be believed by men even if they cannot be understood.

Aquinas said "Christ was either a liar, lunatic of Lord." He expressed anti-Semitic views and blamed the Jews for the death of Jesus. He referred to sex as "lust" and maintained that the only justifiable sex was sex intended for procreation. He also described four kinds of offensive sex (in descending order of offensiveness): 1) bestiality; 2) homosexuality; 3) any sex position other than the face-to-face "missionary" position; and 4) masturbation, which for men he said was effeminate.

Thomas Aquinas described the Seven Deadly Sins: sloth, gluttony, pride, anger, envy, greed, and lust. Some of the sins are more complex than what they appear on the surface. Gluttony, for example, according to Aquinas, has five forms: overeating, eating too soon, eating too eagerly, eating too daintily and spending too much on expensive foods. Aquinas said that gluttony was the least serious of the deadly sin. Perhaps this was so because he had a weight problem himself.

Thomas Aquinas’s Contributions to Christianity

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), "Doctor angelicus", Carl A. Volz wrote, “integrated Aristotelian philosophical principles with traditional speculative theology, and he created, by remolding and rethinking existing materials and old problems, wholly new and original Christian philosophy. He admitted into the Christian purview all the natural values of human social activity and by implication a host of other activities such as art. He insisted on a separation of the spheres of reason and revelation, the natural and the supernatural. It was through observation of external reality, not through the soul's direct consciousness of its own or of God's existence, that a proof of the First Cause could be found. It gave a new dignity to human reason by lending philosophical support to a conviction common to all men, that our knowledge comes from the universe around us. Truth is one! Grace does not destroy nature; it perfects nature. The first original philosophical system produced by Christianity. [Source: Carl A. Volz, late professor of church history at Luther Seminary, web.archive.org, martin.luthersem.edu /::\]


Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things by Hieronymus Bosch


“It is frequently said that Aquinas reflected an alleged Dominican emphasis in stressing reason over will; whereas the Franciscans stressed will over reason. The Franciscans were more in debt to Augustine, the Dominicans to Aristotle. Man is born into the world of nature and he is determined by nature. He makes his decisions in terms of reason. Man can know that there is a God and this can be demonstrated by proofs. The reason for this is that creation is rational. Man can also know the moral life by reason. He can achieve a great deal through the application of reason, as witness Aristotle and all the ancients. But man as a creature of nature is incomplete. He lacks something and only God can supply this lack. Man receives Grace through Baptism, and in this state he lives by faith and not by reason. He accepts the truths of divine revelation. He assents to revelation. Faith does not seek proof; it is itself assent and approval. When man has entered this world of grace and has accepted the truths of divine revelation, faith determines reason! Reason may object to truths, but the man of faith who believes can employ reason to show that the truths of faith do not contradict reason. Faith is above reason. Faith determines reason. The truths of faith are higher than the truths of reason./::\

“Aquinas posits a sharp distinction between reason and faith. If in a large area reason is paramount, many of the fundamental Christian verities (Trinity, Incarnation, original sin) lie wholly beyond its province. But while such doctrines cannot be established by reason they must not be considered contrary to reason. Indeed, up to a point, reason can often indicate their probability and rebut arguments designed to overthrow them. Such doctrines reach us through revelation, which is embodied in Scripture and in the consistent teachings of the Fathers. As their province is that of faith, where primacy belongs to the will and not the intellect, their acceptance by the believer is a matter for moral decision. On the other hand, such truths as the existence of God, His eternity and simplicity, His creative power and providence, can be discovered by the natural reason altogether apart from revelation. /::\

“The Incarnation and Sacraments claimed his special interest. On contraverted matters he tended to follow the tradition of his Order. He held that all seven sacraments were instituted by Christ, that the Eucharist was the highest form of sacrament, and that as the ultimate purpose of the Sacrament of Order was the Eucharist, the Priesthood was the highest of the seven orders, and the Spiscopate therefore not a separate order. For the elaboration of the doctrine of transubstantiation which had been formally defined at the 4th Lateran Council in 1215, he employed the Aristotelian philosophy of substance and accidents. The concomitance of the Body and Blood of Christ in both Eucharistic species afforded theological justification for communion in one kind.

“"Summa contra Gentiles" was designed as a textbook for missionaries. It contains a defense of natural theology against the Arabians. The "Summa theologica", the highest achievement of medieval theological systematization, was the latest of his works and unfinished at his death.” /::\

Holy Trinity and Holy Ghost


Holy Spirit

Christians believe that God manifests himself through the Holy Trinity: Father (God), Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). Resolving the Holy Trinity with the doctrine of monotheism took centuries and tricky metaphysical maneuvering to work out and was a divisive issue in the early days of Christianity and remains something that many ordinary people can't comprehend.

Christians believe that after Jesus's Ascension to heaven, God entered the church as the Holy Spirit and has stayed there ever since. The Acts of the Apostles describes the arrival of Holy Spirit at a meeting of the disciples: “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound as if it where a violent wind...and there appeared to them tongues as of fire, these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them." The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak a number of different languages, allowing them to spread the words of God and Jesus, and thus ushering in the Christian era. This is regarded as the day of the inception of the Christian church.

The Holy Spirit was introduced in the early Christian era. It did not exist in the religion of the Jews. It was articulated by Paul as spirit of god left behind by Christ and something that Christiana instinctively tune into and follow in living an ordinary, dutiful Christian life.

The idea that there is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit means: 1) There is exactly one God; 2) The Father is God; 3) The Son is God; 4) The Holy Spirit is God; 5) The Father is not the Son; 6) The Son is not the Holy Spirit; 7) The Father is not the Holy Spirit. An alternate way of explaining it is: A) There is exactly one God; B) There are three really distinct Persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; C) Each of the Persons is God [Source: BBC, July 21, 2011 |::|]

“Common mistakes: The Trinity is not: 1) Three individuals who together make one God; 2) Three Gods joined together; 3) Three properties of God. |::|

Understanding the Trinity

Through the concept of the Holy Trinity the Father (God) remains something that exist outside of our world in a kind of parallel universe, while Jesus was a divine man who came to earth and departed and the Holy Ghost is a facade of God that remains with us in the world, in our universe.


The Trinity

According to the BBC: “A difficult but fundamental concept within Christianity, the Trinity is the belief that God is three separate persons but is still a single God. Christianity adopted this complicated idea of God because it was the only way they could make sense of One God in the context of the events and teaching of the Bible. The idea of the Trinity does not supersede monotheism; it interprets it, in the light of a specific set of revelatory events and experiences. [Source: BBC, July 21, 2011 |::|]

“The core belief : The doctrine of the Trinity is the Christian belief that: There is One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Other ways of referring to the Trinity are the Triune God and the Three-in-One. The Trinity is a controversial doctrine; many Christians admit they don't understand it, while many more Christians don't understand it but think they do. [Source: BBC, July 21, 2011 |::|]

“In fact, although they'd be horrified to hear it, many Christians sometimes behave as if they believe in three Gods and at other times as if they believe in one. Trinity Sunday, which falls on the first Sunday after Pentecost, is one of the few feasts in the Christian calendar that celebrate a doctrine rather than an event. |::|

“A fundamental doctrine: The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most difficult ideas in Christianity, but it's fundamental to Christians because it: 1) states what Christians believe God is like and who he is; 2) plays a central part in Christians' worship of an "unobjectifiable and incomprehensible God"; 3) emphasises that God is very different from human beings; 4) reflects the ways Christians believe God encounters them; 5) is a central element of Christian identity; 6) teaches Christians vital truths about relationship and community; 7) reveals that God can be seen only as a spiritual experience whose mystery inspires awe and cannot be understood logically |::|

Catholic, Orthodox Dispute Over a Single Word: Filioque

According to the BBC: “Can you believe that the Christian Church fell apart over a single word? Well it's true: The greatest row in the history of Christianity centred on a single word filioque and on the doctrine of the Trinity. The row split the Eastern Church, which mostly became the Orthodox Church, and the Western Church, which became the Roman Catholic Church and its later Protestant offshoots. There were other matters at issue as well, but the row over "the filioque clause" led to the Great Schism of 1054. [Source: BBC, July 21, 2011 |::|]

“What the row was about? The Churches were arguing about whether the Son played any part in the origin of the Spirit as one of the persons of the Trinity from the Father, who is the only ultimate source. The Latin word filioque, which means "and from the son", was gradually inserted by Western churches into the Nicene Creed so that it stated that the Holy Spirit proceeds not from the God the Father alone, as the early Church Fathers believed, but from both God the Father and God the Son. The Eastern wing of the Church believed and believes that the Father alone had given rise to the Holy Spirit, and the idea that both Father and Son had done so was condemned as heretical. |::|

“Even today, the creed used by the Eastern Churches professes faith "in the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father," without mentioning the Filioque. The Western Churches (i.e. the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches) expressly say that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son." |::|

“There were fundamental problems of authority as well as of doctrine. The Eastern wing of the Church was angry that the Western wing of the Church had altered a fundamental part of the creed without their agreement - indeed without even consulting them. This didn't seem to them like the behaviour of a united church, and so the two wings eventually went their separate ways. Many church historians think that the Western wing of the Church did behave very badly by trying to introduce such a major change to Christian belief in such a cavalier way.” |::|


Filoque


Doctrine of 'Dual Procession'

According to the BBC: “This is the name that theologians give to the idea that the Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son. Proceeds? When Christians say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (and the Son), what do they mean, and why do they use such an odd word? The word comes from the Greek text of John 15.26, which speaks of the one "who proceeds (ekporeuetai) from the Father". The Greek word has the sense of movement out of, and early theologians used it to show that the Spirit's origin was within the person of the Father. [Source: BBC, July 21, 2011 |::|]

“Greek theologians restricted this Greek word to this particular technical use - the coming forth of the Spirit from the Father - so that it has a unique reference to the relationship of the Father and the Spirit. The Greek theologians also thought that the way in which the Spirit comes from the Father is similar to, but significantly different from, the way the Son comes from the Father. |::|

“The equivalent Latin word is "procedure", but unlike the Greek word it doesn't include the notion of a starting point within something; it's a more general word for movement. This different meaning may have contributed in a small way to the dispute. Latin theologians taught that the Spirit comes from both the Father and the Son, but comes from each of them in significantly different ways. These differences do not diminish the Father's role as the only cause of everything that exists. |::|

“The arguments in the dispute are highly technical, and seem pretty dull to anyone except a theologian - but they stirred hugely passionate debates in the church because they were about something that mattered terribly: the nature of God. To get a flavour of the passion the debate aroused, look at this comment from a 9th century Patriarch: ...dishonourable men emerged out of the darkness (that is, the West), and poured down like hail or, better, charged like wild boars upon the newly-planted vineyard of the Lord, destroying it with hoof and tusk, which is to say, by their shameful lives and corrupted dogmas. — Encyclical to the Eastern Patriarchs |::|


“Here are some of the arguments that were used by each side. Against the filioque clause; 1) The nature of God the Father is to be the sole cause of everything; 2) God the Father is the "First Person of the Trinity" because he gives existence to everything else; 3 ) Giving life to others is what it means to be a father, it is not what it means to be a son; 4) Jesus said only that the Spirit proceeds from the Father; 5) But when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me. — John 15:26; 6) The idea that the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son detracts from the separate character of each person of the Trinity, and confuses their relationships; 7) The idea that the Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as the Father diminishes the status of God the Father |::|

“In favour of the filioque clause: 1) Jesus did not say that the Spirit only proceeds from the Father; 2) The Creed and the Bible say that the Son does give life to others: A) All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. — John 1:3; B) “Jesus said that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son; C) Jesus said to them again, "Peace be unto you. As the Father has sent me, even so send I you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" — John 20:21-3 |::|; )

“If the Spirit and the Son both proceed only from the Father, then there is no internal distinction between them in the Godhead (as opposed to their action on Earth). The Spirit is the bond of love that unites Father and Son - this bond must proceed from both |::|

“The Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and Son as from a single principle In modern times the Eastern and Western churches have moved closer together. In December 1965 Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras of Constantinople revoked the excommunications of 1054 and called for an active pursuit of mutual understanding. |::|

Original Sin

According to the doctrine of original sin, when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of his descendant shared in his sins. Christ was placed on earth to redeem mankind from its sins by sacrificing himself on the cross. The notion of "original sin" at the Garden of Eden was first suggested by St. Augustine in the A.D. 5th century.

Some Christians believe all of humanity is born with a built-in urge to do bad things. They believe original sin stems from Adam and Eve's disobedience to God. According to the BBC: Original sin is an Augustine Christian doctrine that says that everyone is born sinful. This means that they are born with a built-in urge to do bad things and to disobey God. It is an important doctrine within the Roman Catholic Church. The concept of Original Sin was explained in depth by St Augustine and formalised as part of Roman Catholic doctrine by the Councils of Trent in the 16th Century. [Source: September 17, 2009 BBC |::|]


Original sin

“Original sin is not just this inherited spiritual disease or defect in human nature; it's also the 'condemnation' that goes with that fault. Some Christians believe that original sin explains why there is so much wrong in a world created by a perfect God, and why people need to have their souls 'saved' by God. Original sin is a condition, not something that people do: It's the normal spiritual and psychological condition of human beings, not their bad thoughts and actions. Even a newborn baby who hasn't done anything at all is damaged by original sin. |::|

“In traditional Christian teaching, original sin is the result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God when they ate a forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. |Original sin affects individuals by separating them from God, and bringing dissatisfaction and guilt into their lives. On a world scale, original sin explains such things as genocide, war, cruelty, exploitation and abuse, and the "presence and universality of sin in human history". |::|

Some Christians believe that human beings can't cure themselves of original sin. The only way they can be saved from its consequences is by the grace of God. The only way people can receive God's grace is by accepting his love and forgiveness, believing that Jesus Christ died on the cross to redeem their sins, and getting baptised. |::|

“Secular ideas of original sin: 1) Modern thinkers don't think the doctrine of original sin is literally true, but they do think it contains real truths about the human condition: 2) The world is not as good as we want it to be; 3) We are not as good as we want to be Individual behaviour is greatly influenced by things outside the individual's control; 4) Many of these are historical things: 5) events in the individual's past; 6) events in the past of the individual's family; 7) customs that their culture has built up through history. These things affect humanity as a group as well as individuals |::|

St Augustine and Original Sin

According to the BBC: “Although St Augustine didn't invent the doctrine of original sin, his ideas about it dominated Western Church teaching. Augustine's theory shows great understanding of human psychology. It provides an explanation for human suffering and guilt by teaching that those human beings somehow deserved these things. |::|

“Human beings deserve to suffer because the first parents sinned. And since humanity deserves the bad things it gets, humanity can comfort itself with the idea that it has a just rather than an unjust God.This made the presence of evil in the world easier to understand, and answered the question of why a benevolent God would allow such a state of affairs to exist. |::|

“Augustine developed his idea of original sin for several reasons: 1) to explain the almost irresistible pressure to behave badly that troubles even the most saintly people; 2) to justify the need to baptise babies as soon as possible after birth; 3) to demonstrate that human beings are totally reliant on God's grace and all-powerful goodness; 4) to defeat the ideas of Pelagius, an English theologian. [Source: September 17, 2009 BBC |::|]


Saint Monica and Saint Augustine

Augustine saw original sin as working in two ways: 1) inherited guilt for a crime and 2) spiritual sickness or weakness. Augustine thought that humanity was originally perfect ("man's nature was created at first faultless and without any sin"), immortal and blessed with many talents, but that Adam and Eve disobeyed God, and introduced sin and death to the world. |::|

“Augustine didn't see any need to provide a good reason why Adam, who had originally been created perfect, chose to sin, or why God hadn't created a perfect being that was incapable of sin. As far as Augustine was concerned the point was that Adam had sinned and humanity had to deal with the consequences. Modern people would think it unjust that human beings should suffer for something that happened long before they existed, but to people in Augustine's time the idea of punishing later generations for their parents' crimes was familiar. |::|

“Augustine developed the following argument: the whole essence of human nature was contained in Adam, the first man when Adam disobeyed God, the whole of human nature disobeyed God thus the whole of human nature became sinful thus the whole human race was damaged for all time. Nothing remains but to conclude that in the first man all are understood to have sinned, because all were in him when he sinned; whereby sin is brought in with birth and not removed save by the new birth... it is manifest that in Adam all sinned, so to speak, en masse. By that sin we became a corrupt mass. Bible scholars think that this element of Augustine's theory was partly based on a mistranslation in the Latin version of the Bible. However, Augustine does not base his entire argument only on that particular text, and his theory is not wrecked by this error. Having established that every human being had inherited guilt from Adam, Augustine taught that this was why that all human beings were damned, even if they didn't commit any extra sins of their own.” |::|

“Augustine was certain that the consequence of original sin was damnation. This even applied to people who hadn't committed any sins, like newborn babies, if they died before their souls were cleaned by baptism. People could only escape damnation through God's grace, and the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for their sins. God's grace was passed on through baptism (or martyrdom - but this was a route that few would choose). Unfortunately there was no guarantee that everyone who was baptised would be saved from damnation, merely the certainty that those who weren't baptised would go to hell.

Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Teachings about Original Sin

According to the BBC: “The Protestant theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) believed that humanity's unbelief and disobedience had so fundamentally changed the human race that little, if anything, of God was left in it.“We are lost, there is no means of help; and whether we are great or small, fathers or children, we are all without exception in a state of damnation if God does not remove from us the curse which weighs upon us, and that by His generosity and grace, without His being obliged to do so. — John Calvin [Source: September 17, 2009 BBC |::|]

“Many modern Protestants would not take quite such a gloomy view of humanity as Calvin, and would not regard humankind as evil in essence, without any trace of the divine image. They would still teach that human beings are 'fallen' and need to 'get right with God', by believing that Christ's death 'atoned' for their sin, accepting that they can only be 'saved' by God's freely given 'grace', and being baptised. |::|

“The Christian Orthodox churches don't interpret original sin in the way that Augustine did. They don't accept that people can be guilty of a sin they did not commit, and so reject the idea of inherited guilt passed down the generations The Orthodox interpretation of original sin is that the way in which human beings inherit sinfulness is that human history, culture and society have created a moral climate which disposes human beings to behave sinfully; as a result, all people need God's help to avoid sin.

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p> “The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church was summarised by Pope Paul VI: “We believe that in Adam all have sinned, which means that the original offence committed by him caused human nature, common to all men, to fall to a state in which it bears the consequences of that offence, and which is not the state in which it was at first in our first parents, established as they were in holiness and justice, and in which man knew neither evil nor death. It is human nature so fallen, stripped of the grace that clothed it, injured in its own natural powers and subjected to the dominion of death, that is transmitted to all men, and it is in this sense that every man is born in sin. |::|



“We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature 'not by imitation, but by propagation' and that it is thus 'proper to everyone.' We believe that our Lord Jesus Christ, by the sacrifice of the cross, redeemed us from original sin and all the personal sins committed by each one of us, so that, in accordance with the word of the Apostle, 'where sin abounded, grace did more abound.' — Paul VI 1968

Sex and St Augustine's Theory on Original Sin

According to the BBC: “St Augustine, who largely devised the theory of original sin, thought that original sin was transmitted from generation to generation through sexual intercourse. Augustine did not say exactly how this happened. He said that it was transmitted by "concupiscence", when people had sex and conceived a child.Concupiscence is a technical theological word that Augustine used to refer to sexual desire as something bad in the soul that was inseparable from normal human sexual impulses. [Source: September 17, 2009 BBC |::|]

“Sexual desire was bad, he taught, because it could totally overwhelm those caught up in it, depriving them of self-control and rational thought. This disapproving view of passion was quite common among Christians of Augustine's time. Augustine thought that concupiscence was present in all sexual intercourse. He thought that it was just as bad and uncontrolled in a marriage as it was in non-marital sex, but that an excuse could be made for it within marriage because its purpose was to produce legitimate children. |::|

“This bad element in sex provides the means by which original sin is transmitted from father to child. It transmits both humanity's guilt for Adam's crime and the sickness or defect that gives human beings a sinful nature. ...whenever it comes to the actual process of generation, the very embrace which is lawful and honourable cannot be effected without the ardour of lust.... [This lust] is the daughter of sin, as it were; and whenever it yields assent to the commission of shameful deeds, it becomes also the mother of many sins. Now from this concupiscence whatever comes into being by natural birth is bound by original sin... — Augustine, De bono coniugali |::|

Council of Trent and Getting Rid of Original Sin

According to the BBC: “The Council or Trent (1545-63), or Trentine councils were a series of Roman Catholic theological meetings in response to the Reformation. The Council of Trent gave the official stamp to the idea that original sin was transferred from generation to generation by propagation - which means during the sexual act that led to conception. This formalised the notion of Original Sin as part of Roman Catholic doctrine.[Source: September 17, 2009 BBC |::|]



“The Council explicitly ruled out the idea that original sin was transferred by "imitation"; in order to block the idea that human beings just copied the bad example set by their parents and others. Imitation and mimesis are closely related ideas teach that original sin is passed on by copying the sinful tendencies of other people. The Council of Trent decreed that this idea was false.

“The only way a person can 'cleanse' their soul from sin is to: |1) “accept that Christ's death on the cross atoned for this sin; 2) accept that only God's grace can cure this sin; 3) confess their sins and ask for forgiveness; 4) be baptised. Many churches accept that infants can be cleansed of original sin by being baptised soon after birth. The other elements required are carried out by adults on the baby's behalf during the ceremony.

“Redemption In St Paul's letter to the Galatians, he wrote: "Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery". This conception of Redemption as freedom from bondage is crucial for Judeo-Christian thought.

Papal Infallibility

Papal Infallibility is a notion that something declared as such by the Pope is regarded as irreversible and free of error. It requires full acceptance of the faithful likes a commandment from God. It was declared by the Vatican Council of 1869-70.

The Vatican statement on Papal infallibility reads: "that the Pope when speaking on the official capacity of the supreme leader for Christianity cannot err in defining dogmas of faith, morals and rites." Occasionally less stringent infallibilities are invoked by other organizations within the Vatican.

Papal infallibility is based on doctrine that when the Pope speaks as the supreme leader of Christianity he cannot make an error. Papal infallibility requires a solemn declaration in carefully specified circumstances. They are very rare. Only twice has one been invoked in the 19th and 20th century. One regarded the Immaculate Conception. The other regarded the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

In 1870, shortly after the defeat of the Papal states and the unification of Italy, Pope Pius IX declared the papal infallibility whenever "he defines with his supreme apostolic authority a doctrine concerning faith and morals to be held by the Universal Church.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com; “ Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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