Thursday, April 26, 2012

Article 9

Today's article is one of the longer of the Articles of Religion, and it begins the series of articles completely concerning doctrine. They first two sections involved the Unity of God and the Rule of Faith. Today's article has all manner of odd turns of phrase and strange theological fingerprints all over it:

IX. Of Original or Birth-sin
Original Sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the mature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature Both remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in the Greek, phronema sarkos, which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection some the desire, of the flesh, is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized, yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.

Some things to note about the Doctrinal Articles of Religion:
1. There is a some similarity between this article and the 2nd Article of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession, though they are in way identical. How Protestants dealt with Original Sin was a major thread in most Protestant confessions of the time. The concept and nature of original sin, particularly as it relates to forgiveness and justification by faith and all manner of Reformed ideals was much debated by the Reformers. 
2. The Reformers were largely schooled in the Theological Scholasticism of the Late Middle Ages and this comes out in the way these statements are presented. In other words, the argument is laid out rhetorically much like someone like Thomas Aquinas would have laid out the argument in a Classical manner, stressing both the negative and the positive in the supposition. 
3. The position taken up in these articles presumes the reader already understands about Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, and basic Patrisitic theology on the issues, particularly Augustine's teachings on Original Sin.

Basically, the argument of what Original Sin amounts to is this: Adam was originally spiritually naked and mortal but given spiritual gifts of grace and immortality. The Fall of Adam was really a stripping of Adam of these gifts so that he reverted back to how he was originally created, except that now God viewed Adam with displeasure. Thus, this article comes to the somewhat bizarre notion that Original Sin was neither a positive or negative quality or evil, but simply an absence of original righteousness.

This article comes up with a cutesy bit of theology concerning what to do with the tendency of Adam's descendants to Sin? Are we guilty because of this? Sometimes this is referred to as Original Guilt. This article advocates "concupiscence."  In other words, Adam's descendants were not guilty simply because they inherited Adam's desire or penchant for sinning because the Fall was really Adam reverting back to his original nature and not a fall something normal to some lesser form of human life

The root of this is what happens at Baptism. There was (and still is) talk that Baptism "regenerates" the person being baptized and frees them from the curse of Original Sin. The problem with that is that after Baptism, people still go on having a sinful nature. This article gets around that problem by saying that Baptism put away Original Sin but not the concupiscence of Original Sin. This cutesy language and definition of Original Sin protects against Pelagianism but completely undercuts the Scholastic and Tridentine definitions of Original Sin and its logical inference of Original Guilt inherited from Adam.

At this point, I could go into a long diatribe about how the Reformers were either misunderstanding or misrepresenting classic Catholic doctrine on issues of Original Sin and Baptism. Likewise, the Catholic Council of Trent speaks to this issue hereBut suffice is to say that Anglican theology does not believe we are condemned simply because of Adam's Sin. We are good enough at coming up with our own sins. But luckily there is God's free gift grace. 

That is really the ultimate point of where all this debate is headed. 

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