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February 01, 2006




First, original sin is a Catholic doctrine. Just look into St. Augustine's work, you'll fine it there. It was this belief in innate sin that drove some of those harsh Catholic school masters: "per molestias eruditio". So while most Christians believe in "inherent" sin, its not a Protestant theological creation.

Also, the Greeks clearly believed that human nature unchecked by law was a very dangerous thing. So to say they didn't believe in our "fallen nature", is not accurate. The Greek accomplishment was to build the institutions of religion, culture and politics which were meant to guide and direct raw human nature.

I enjoyed your discussion of Greco-Roman ethics though I am not sure the Greeks or Romans would have agreed that people can totally avoid the stamp of nature. Thucydides's work is full of caricature. It was Shakespeare’s genius to emulate the ancient poets in projecting different character types.

Jason Roberts


I really appreciated your comment!

You are right; the "fallen" nature concept even predates Augustine. However, the Catholics believe that faith plus good works can get you to heaven. Or, not only do you have to believe in Christ, but also you must actively work towards achieving your goal of an ethical life. Catholicism retained many pagan concepts, be they in the form of the Saints, the incense in the churches, or the Latin language itself (sadly, Vatican 2 did a lot to eliminate pagan influence). It was that the Protestants took the final, intrinsic step in separating ethics from this world and relying solely on faith and grace that I was speaking.

The "fallen nature" concept, or that man has something inherently evil inside of him, is indeed a Christian concept. You are right, though. The Greeks and Romans heavily felt that mankind, stripped from the thin veneer of civilization (as VDH likes to say), can be quite barbaric. But from Aristotle to Seneca, and from Cicero to Plutarch, the Greeks and Romans made clear that mankind is "neutral" by nature; a rational animal who must constantly seek ethics and the State to steer clear of extremes. I just see a vast difference between the one viewpoint, that man must make for himself a character of excellence and avoid extremes, and the other viewpoint, that man could live 50 years of moral excellence and still be evil.

Thank you for your comment once again. I really enjoyed it :).



Clearly original sin has its origins in the Bible, prior to Augustine. But it was Augustine who gave it conceptual force and voice. When he said, “The deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin (De nupt. et concup),” he was settling an argument within the church. He was defining man as a “deliberate” sinner.

Also, I would disagree with your assessment of Protestants and ethics. John Calvin, the Book of James and Jesus, all taught good works and charity as the spirit of Christianity. True, Calvin taught the Doctrine of Predestination, and pointed to success in life as proof of one’s destination. But he points basically in the same direction as Jesus and James: work in this world, to make your way to the next. Read Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. We could argue over the point of locus, but from my experience most Protestants do see their actions in this world as affecting their salvation. I think your position best applies to fundamental Christians, a very important distinction.

As for Seneca, Cicero and Plutarch, it is hard to believe they looked at man’s nature as “neutral.” Two of them (Seneca and Cicero) saw just what neutrality gets you: executed. However, I respect your viewpoint and when I get a chance to glean these writers again I will look for the neutrality.

Your page is excellent and I too very much appreciate the discussion and debate.

Jason Roberts


What Jesus said and what is taught in modern day churches are not always the same. My evaluation of the modern Protestant view comes from years and years of attending Methodist, Baptist, and many other Protestant churches. I will admit that Calvin is an exception. However, Calvinism is not a Baptist doctrine, and his idea of "working to discover if you are predetermined" is not a significant belief of the Methodist Church.

Your distinction concerning Fundamental Christians may be key. I come from the South, easily the most fundamentally Christian area in America.

I think I should clarify the term "neutral". By neutral I mean that human beings are not BORN good or bad. We are born morally neutral. However, as we become adults, our "habits", our "character" (tropoi) constitutes who we are. A central belief of each person that I mentioned was that, from birth, we must continuously strive to have a good tropoi. By not practicing the Cicero quote says...we develop a habit of immorality. Because many people do not make it an effort to practice virtue and morality, it seems that people have a "fallen nature", or are "bad", because they themselves have made it a habit not to be moral!

Hopefully that clarifies my position.


All you have done is come up with your own opinion, twisted Christian doctrine to support it and pretended it's all fact. Go explore further because like it or not, it is a very unintelligent thing to distort facts for ones own gain. It's something a child does.

Jason Roberts


Would you mind providing some information to counter what I said? Otherwise, it is quite childish indeed to make statements without backing them up.


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