||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Amy Wellborn points to another case in which New Testament heroes alluded to doctrines which they assumed to such an extent that they did not even bother stating them. In this case, Jesus assumes that unborn babes are innocent of sin and Paul stated that they are not.
At the Last Supper, Jesus warned his betrayer that if his betrayal succeeded, it would be better if the betrayer "had never been born". Jesus did not say that it would have been better had he not been conceived.
As with Jeremiah, this has implications for defining that moment at which the soul begins.
In standard (Pauline) Christianity, all the sons and daughters of Eve are inherently tainted with Eve's sin. Under mediaeval Catholic doctrine, the Virgin Mary was conceived in a miraculous exemption from this (the much-misunderstood "immaculate conception"). But (1) this is unpopular outside the Church and (2) it is at best an exception testing the rule; besides, Jesus died childless and Mary's other children descended from Joseph - and so acquired Original Sin from Joseph's bloodline. Therefore, all of us today are conceived as full humans with the same need for salvation from that sin, even when we are unborn and so incapable of moral judgement.
Jesus never taught this proto-Catholic doctrine. He held with the Jewish (and Muslim) view, that infants are innocent up to the time of birth. I expect that he would have accepted that Adam and Eve sinned and that this sin resulted in their bodily exile from Eden, but that he would have inferred that this sin did not prevent their souls from reattaining that greater Paradise prepared for "
If this sounds more Islamic than Christian, well, Jesus was more Islamic than Christian. Starting with Paul, most Christians ignore or else misunderstand Jesus's teachings.
Jesus's view is more consistent with human justice. We accept that a judge might render decisions upon a child based on the mismanagement of his parents or even community; but ethical judges do not condemn such children to death or to torment. Jesus also implicitly links sin with individual choice, while also allowing that a bad choice now may be the logical end result of a bad life up to then: both of which accord with what we know of that organ which drives decision-making (the brain).
It would appear that Christians should dismantle the edifice of Original Sin, in view of Christ's own teachings on the subject. This will rid us of any need for debates on Limbo.
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