The Christian Doctrine of Hereditary

The Christian doctrine of original or hereditary sin is based on the biblical story of the Fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 and on the testimony of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12: 'Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned'.8 The term 'original sin' does not occur in the Bible, but in the second century of the Christian era the Greek church father Irenaeus (c. 130-200) worked out a theory of original sin for the Eastern Church emphasizing the solidarity of the human race with Adam.9 The Latin church father Tertullian (c. 160-225) introduced the concept of inherited sin in the Western Church with the notion of a 'vice of origin' (vitium originis) or corruption of nature transmitted from generation to generation by procreation.10 Tertullian's concept of hereditary sin was refined by later fathers of the Western Church and given consummate expression by St Augustine (354-430), whose formulation was strongly opposed by the British monk Pelagius (c.354-418). In contrast to the Augustinian view of Adam's original or first sin (peccatum originans) in the Fall as the cause of inherited sin (peccatum originatum) in later generations, Pelagius emphasized the natural ability and freedom of individuals to choose the good and denied the Augustinian doctrine of sin, for which he and his followers were condemned as heretics by the church councils of the time.11 The Augustinian doctrine of original sin was modified in the Middle Ages by Anselm, Aquinas, and other scholastic theologians in such a way as to make original sin consist in the loss of an original righteousness granted to humans by supernatural grace (donum supernaturalis), leaving a human being's natural spiritual capacities weakened but still operative after the Fall.12 In contrast to this interpretation, Reformation theologians such as Luther and Calvin advocated an intensified version of the Augustinian formulation affirming the deep corruption of all faculties in a person, including reason and the will, as a result of original sin.13 Luther's views were adopted in the Augsburg Confession of 1530 and Smalcald Articles of 1537 as part of the official doctrine of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church. Theological differences between the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinistic)

8 The New Oxford Annotated Bible (2001).

9 Thulstrup (1980a: 136); Tennant (1946: 288-91); Kelly (1968: 170-4).

10 Tennant (1946: 328, 333-5); Kelly (1968: 174-7).

11 Harrison (2000: 101-14). 12 N. Thulstrup (1980a: 140).

13 Ibid. 141-2. See also Barrett (1985).

churches and within Lutheranism itself were later addressed in the Formula of Concord of 1577.14

While Vigilius does not reject the orthodox doctrine of hereditary sin in the wholesale fashion some commentators have attributed to him,15 he does regard the interpretations that evolved in the Catholic and Protestant traditions as being confused and problematic in certain respects. The first problem has to do with the relation of Adam's first sin to hereditary sin, namely whether the two are identical or not. Vigilius poses the question this way: 'Does the concept of hereditary sin differ from the concept of the first sin in such a way that the particular individual participates in inherited sin only through his relation to Adam and not through his primitive relation to sin' (CA 26)? If Adam's first sin is fundamentally different from the sinfulness inherited by later generations, then Adam stands fantastically outside of history as the only person in whom hereditary sin is not found, since it came into being through him and thus is not the same as his first sin. In that case hereditary sin would be explained as a consequence of Adam's sin, but Adam's sin itself would not be explained. The unsatisfactory implications of this view are made even more evident in light of the Lutheran doctrine of the atonement, which teaches that Christ has made satisfaction for hereditary sin.16 If Adam's first sin is different from hereditary sin, then Adam would be the only person excluded from the atonement (28). Vigilius thus concludes:

No matter how the problem is raised, as soon as Adam is placed fantastically on the outside, everything is confused. To explain Adam's sin is therefore to explain hereditary sin. And no explanation that explains Adam but not hereditary sin, or explains hereditary sin but not Adam, is of any help ...The problem is always that of getting Adam included as a member of the race, and precisely in the same sense in which every other individual is included. This is something to which dogmatics should pay attention, especially for the sake of the Atonement. (CA 28, 33 n.)

Vigilius proceeds to resolve this dogmatic problem with the help of two guiding principles or propositions: (1) the individual is simultaneously him/herself and the whole race in such a way that each participates in the other; and (2) the transition from one quality to another occurs suddenly by way of a leap, not through a gradual, quantitative progression.

14 See The Book of Concord (2000: 481-660).

15 Cf. Poole (2001: 211-13); Beabout (1996: 39); Davenport (2000: 132).

Unum Noris Omnes

The first proposition has its basis in a Latin expression by the Roman comic dramatist Terence (c. 190-159 bce). In a passage excised from the final draft of The Concept of Anxiety Vigilius states: 'It is important to maintain with profound psychological decisiveness: unum noris omnes [if you know one, you know all]. When the possibility of sin appears in one human being, it has appeared in all' (CA 183, translation modified; cf. CA 79; CUP i. 353, 571; JP iii. 2952, 2958, 3327). The reason for this solidarity, as Vigilius sees it, is that 'a human being is an individuum [individual] and as such simultaneously himself and the whole race, and in such a way that the whole race participates in the individual and the individual in the whole race' (CA 28; cf. JP ii. 2024). This definition of the individual profoundly qualifies the isolated, atomistic notion of the individual that is popularly attributed to Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms. It also provides the basis for a more communal social theory than is generally recognized in Kierkegaard's thought. The mutual participation of the individual and the race in one another is a contradiction that constitutes both a present reality and the ideal perfection of human beings, inasmuch as at every moment individuals are both themselves and the race and have the perfection of themselves as participants in the race as their ethical task. In this way both the individual and the race acquire a history through each other, and every individual acquires an essential, not merely accidental, interest in the history of all other individuals, who as a whole constitute the human race. In Vigilius's view, this contradiction applies to Adam just as much as it does to every other individual in the race. Thus Adam 'is not essentially different from the race, for in that case there is no race at all'; but neither is he simply identical to the race, 'for in that case also there would be no race' (29). Like every other individual, Adam is both 'himself and the race'; consequently, 'that which explains Adam also explains the race and vice versa' (29).

This notion of the solidarity of Adam and the race is not a novel idea, as it was prefigured in the Pauline-Irenaean view of Adam as a representative figure whose fall signifies 'the collective deed of the race' through a mystical identification of Adam and humankind.17 But Vigilius's understanding of this solidarity differs somewhat in that the Pauline-Irenaean view simply identifies Adam with the race, whereas for Vigilius Adam is an individual who is both himself and the race, thereby preserving his particularity or distinctiveness over against the race. The solidarity of the race with Adam was also affirmed by the early Western church fathers, particularly

Ambrose and Augustine, but they interpreted it so as to implicate the race in Adam's sin en masse, 'as in a lump' (quasi in massa), rather than as individuals (Ambrose), or to exert an involuntary corrupting influence on later generations through procreation (Augustine).18 Closer to Vigilius's view is that of Kant, who quotes Horace's saying, Mutato nomine de tefabula narratur (Change but the name, of you the tale is told), as indicative of our daily individual sinfulness and the biblical claim that 'in Adam we have all sinned'.19 Echoing Kant, Vigilius states in a sentence excised from the final draft: 'If the explanation of Adam and his fall does not concern me as a fabula, quae de me narratur [story that speaks to me], one might as well forget both Adam and the explanation' (CA 186).

Kierkegaard also encountered the view of Adam as 'the human being in general' in Marheineke's lectures on dogmatic theology which he attended in Berlin in 1841-2 (SKP xiii. III C 26, pp. 213-14).20 Theologically, however, the most likely influence upon him on this issue was Schleiermacher, whose treatment of original sin emphasizes both individual responsibility and corporate guilt for original sin: 'Original sin...is at the same time so really the personal guilt of every individual who shares in it that it is best represented as the corporate act and the corporate guilt of the human race____'21 Schleiermacher also states:

Whether, in fact, we regard it [sin] as guilt and deed or rather as a spirit and a state, it is in either case common to all; not something that pertains severally to each individual and exists in relation to him by himself, but in each the work of all, and in all the work of each; and only in this corporate character, indeed, can it be properly and fully understood.22

Like Schleiermacher, Vigilius thinks it is important to maintain the corporate character of original sin, for 'if this is not held fast, one will fall either into the Pelagian...singular or into the fantastic', that is, either into an individualistic viewpoint 'which permits every individual to play his little history in his own private theater unconcerned about the race' or into one in which Adam is seen as being more than the race or as standing outside it (CA 28, 34). In working out his own view of original or hereditary sin, therefore, Vigilius tries to steer a middle course between Augustine and Pelagius. With Augustine he wants to affirm the solidarity of

20 See also Hegel (1984-7: iii. 301): 'From the point of view of thought, the expression "the first human being" signifies "humanity in itself" or "humanity as such"—not some single, contingent individual, not one among many, but the absolutely first one, humanity according to its concept.'

21 Schleiermacher (1956: 285). See also Wyman (2005); Boyd (1970).

22 Schleiermacher (1956: 288, emphasis added).

Adam and the race without making hereditary sin involuntary in the race, while preserving individual responsibility for original sin without falling into the isolated individualism of Pelagius. The way Vigilius goes about doing this is by positing a second principle of interpretation in the notion of the qualitative leap.

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