How is the biblical concept of original sin more adequate than the new age, hindu or buddhist views of sin?

(Lakshmi Mehta) #1

One of the most difficult things to accept about Christianity for the religious followers of eastern religions is that we are born in a state of rebellion against a Holy God, even without a previous life. For many, the story of Adam and Eve sinning through eating of a fruit of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden, is as mythical as Christians think the eastern stories are. The new age, hindu and buddhist views, all seem to be variations of the same idea that sin is related to desires outside of god’s will due to ignorance of the soul to its true identity. Hence the path back in all these philosophies is self-realization.

As I try to answer my question my mind goes in a variety of directions.Some questions that I hope the answers will touch on are: How can we best explain the justice in inheriting sin nature at birth? What evidences can we share to establish the truth of Adam and Eve’s story? Why might babies go to heaven if born in sin nature? How did Jesus not share in the sin nature if He was both man and God? What are some philosophical problems with the idea that sin is due to ignorance of true identity of soul as a part of God/ servant of God?

Look forward to your thoughts! Thank you!

(SeanO) #2

@Lakshmismehta That is a great question. I’ve been looking forward to the next thread on this topic. You’ve brought up a lot of questions, so I will begin by considering the concept of sin as ignorance of true identity and the Biblical notion of sin as a lack of love for God and neighbor. Then I will provide a few brief thoughts on some of the other questions you brought up.

Matthew 22:36-40 - “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Romans 8:5 - Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

Galatians 5:17 - For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.

Let us make some observations from Jesus’ definition of the two great commandments and some of Paul’s explanations of the flesh and the Spirit:

  • Biblical sin is a lack of love
  • Biblical sin creates relational barriers between us and God / other people
  • our flesh desires what is contrary to God’s law
  • we must crucify our flesh / sinful nature to obey God

Now we find something very interesting. And Paul points it out explicitly in Romans 7:18 - For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

Wow! The Bible teaches that we want to do what is good - but because our flesh - our self - is fallen due to a sinful nature we cannot carry out.

Now we have a great contradiction! Easter philosophies tell us to find our true self and Christianity teaches us to crucify our self - our flesh - and live unto God in the Spirit! Who is right?

The Ligonier article in my first subsection below makes this point well, but here is my summary of what I think is a good argument for the Biblical view of sin:

In the real world, we constantly see people who fall short of the standards they set for themselves, which is exactly what we would expect if the Biblical view of self as corrupt and incapable of upholding the law is true. Malcolm Muggeridge, who Ravi quotes often, says it this way:

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.” Malcolm Muggeridge

Now, there is one other argument that makes the Bible’s view of sin more nuanced and therefore, more accurate: in the Bible our desires are not evil in and of themselves, but rather they are evil when twisted and perverted by selfishness. God gave us food to eat, marital relations, desires for success and the joy of achieving great things. None of these desires are evil in and of themselves, but only once twisted by the corrupted flesh. God gave Adam and Eve good food to eat and one another to enjoy.

Now, common sense tells us that many of these things are good in and of themselves. And the Eastern view that we must do away with our desires flies in the face of what we know to be true. Here is a sermon from Tim Keller where he notes that God has given us good things to enjoy - He is the Lord of the wine at the feast - the giver of every good gift.

James 1:17 - Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

In Christianity, what affect does original sin have on us now?

In brief, I think original sin causes us to be born with a fallen nature and the inevitability of death. The fallen nature gives us a propensity to sin. Now, this word propensity is very important. I do not believe we are condemned on the day of judgment for Adam’s sin - but rather for our own sins. However, because we are descendants of Adam, we will die and we live with a tendency to sin. In that sense, babies have not sinned - their propensity to sin has not resulted in them committing sinful actions yet, so that may be one explanation for how they can enter paradise. They have a sinful nature, but have not yet themselves sinned.

I Cor 15:21-22 - For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Here is an article from Ligonier that discusses this propensity to sin and a brief quote from it making the point.

“If everyone were born in a state of moral neutrality, you would expect statistically that approximately 50 percent of those people would grow up and never sin. But that’s not what we find. Everywhere we find human beings acting against the moral precepts and standards of the New Testament. In fact, whatever the moral standards are of the culture in which they live, nobody keeps them perfectly. Even the honor that’s established among thieves is violated by thieves. No matter how low the level of morality is in a given society, people break it.”

Folklore Can Point Back to Historical Reality

There are those that argue because myths are similar they must also be false and have grown from one another. However, it is also possible (perhaps more so when the myths are spread throughout the world) that myths with common elements point back to a historical reality. Here is a thread where I provide some resources showing that there are many myths / stories around the world about a great flood and about the tree of life that point back to the historical realities of Noah’s flood and the Garden of Eden. In fact, the Bible’s version of these stories is far more plausible than the ones in the mythological accounts.

Lewis’ Argument for Christianity as the True Myth

Here is a video that I really like that tells C. S. Lewis’ journey from theism to Christianity. He was considering both Christianity and Hinduism. But he realized that the claims of the incarnation are unique that, in a sense, Christianity is the ‘true myth’ - the fulfillment of man’s knowledge of God. Jesus left footprints in actual history - other so called gods never did.

God Put the Tree of Knowledge There for a Reason

Many people wonder why God put the tree there in the first place - here is my answer in another thread. I think that for us to truly grow into the people God wants us to be, we must obey in the presence of temptation and suffering. Even Jesus, the God-man, is said to have been perfected through His obedience to the Father through suffering.

Hebrews 2:10 - In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.

Hope that is a good start to get things rolling. The Lord grant us wisdom and discernment as we consider these topics.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #3

@SeanO, that reply is not just good but fantastic! Thank you for addressing the main question and touching upon the secondary related questions. I have found it difficult to narrow down and prioritize my thoughts. On reading your response, I find it best to identify the key contradictions between ‘original sin’ and ‘ignorance’ and then test it against reason, evidence and experience.

You make some wonderful distinctions –

  1. Eastern philosophies tell us to find our true self (not realizing that the fallen self needs regeneration not self-improvement ) and Christianity teaches us to crucify our self - our flesh - and live unto God in the Spirit!

  2. Biblically, our desires are not evil in and of themselves, but rather they are evil when twisted and perverted by selfishness (useful to contrast with Buddhist view ) I loved Tim Keller’s message on this. The first miracle of Jesus of turning water into wine proves how Christianity is not about extinguishing desire but is its fulfillment in Christ. This message is also great for those who find Christianity unattractive and lacking in fun.

On reading the key features of biblical sin, I am just thinking how an eastern mind would respond. They might say -

  • Ignorance of real self can also be the cause for loss of love for God and others – The attachment to the temporary statuses such as race, gender, family, nation, bank balance, and religion causes selfish decisions, further ignorance and separation of self from others and god.

One answer may be that the dissolution of differences/loss of identity as in pantheism/buddhism on enlightenment doesn’t allow for development of true love. There is no one to love on losing identity. In Jesus, sacrificial love, we have the ultimate example of the bridge between differences. Other thoughts here for ISKCON followers who don’t believe in a loss of identity after enlightenment? One argument may be the absurdity of god being both good and evil.

  • While the path is called self-realization, the devotional process is all about sacrificing the ego and material desires.

Though they too may say they are doing what Christians do, when it is done as means to go to God, we would be focusing more on self rather than on God. In my own life, I have seen the result of being sin conscious than (Jesus) Son-conscious. It changed my perception of self to be performance dependent, which I ended up projecting onto God and others. It was a damaging divergence from the truth in Christ. I suspect that would be the result of focusing too much on self-improvement even for other religions – self-glorification on succeeding and self-loathing on failing to meet the standards. Other thoughts here?

Some other objections or problems with ignorance/illusion:

  • In the pantheistic worldview according to Ronald Rhodes, if ‘all is one’ and ‘all is God’, the distinction between good and evil ultimately disappears as one must conclude both evil and good stem from the same essence, making life meaningless.

  • Paul Copan makes some points in his book, “That’s just your interpretation” that may be useful here – universal cosmic amnesia /ignorance is difficult to account for, the one who is in illusion can give no reason for their view to be true, monist view obliterates the uniqueness of an individual, Buddhist doctrine of elimination of desire is itself a desire making it self-contradictory.

  • A few more questions: How can we be protected from self-conceit if our state at birth is dependent on previous sins?, What is the solution for those whose hearts turn bitter with suffering?, where does independent thinking / free-will come from if we were parts of god?

Evidence for Adam and Eve

Belief in historical Jesus who affirms OT is helpful here

Myths on Adam and Eve story was new to me, thanks for sharing that!

Need a little more understanding on sin nature

While I understand that we sin because of sin nature, I am not sure how exactly the sin nature resides in us. According to Romans 8:5-9, it seems both the mind and flesh form the sin nature. To me it seems the sin nature is due to the departure of the Holy Spirit’s full presence from creation due to original sin which brings man under deceptive schemes of Satan as he is the prince of this world who has power to influence our bodies and minds (Revelation 12:10, Eph 4:18-19). Are we separated from God because of sin or sin nature ? I thought we are all condemned because of sin nature but saved by believing in Jesus (John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son). Doesn’t this verse seem like it contradicts your statement – “In that sense, babies have not sinned - their propensity to sin has not resulted in them committing sinful actions yet, so that may be one explanation for how they can enter paradise”. Also according to the doctrine of federal headship, sin was already imputed at birth (Rom 5:12-14). If we have sin nature at birth, how do we explain what happens to mentally handicapped and babies who don’t have opportunity to accept Christ ? Finally, Can we say that Jesus only inherited the human nature ( because of Mary) that can be influenced by Satan but not the propensity to sin of sin nature or the imputed sin (from Adam) because of being the Son in perfect alignment with God’s will? (Phill 2:8-9).

Thanks again for your time and answers!

(SeanO) #4

@Lakshmismehta Thank you for the reply! Very thorough. Honestly, it seems like you are more well equipped to critique the ISKON concept of sin. I am still learning exactly what their position on sin means - and it sounds like there is some disagreement. Right now I will only make a few brief points. I need some time to process all of these thoughts.

In Christianity, Sin is Fundamentally Relational

Eternal life, according to Jesus, is knowing God in relationship. So when we separate ourselves from God through disobedience, the consequence of sin is death because life flows from God. The entire problem is one of relationship - there is a wall between us and God (Isaiah 59:1-2).

John 17:3 - Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

If eternal life is not knowing God; then death is a consequence of not knowing God - or separating ourselves from His presence. In John 8:19 Jesus tells the Pharisees that they do not know God.

John 8:19 - Then they asked him, “Where is your father?” “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”

In John 14:7 Jesus tells the disciples they know God because they know Him:

John 14:7 - If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.

Original Sin and Judgment

Paul explicitly says that we are enemies of God in our mind/thinking and that our flesh has corrupt desires. To me, that is the sinful nature. We all die because Adam sinned - we are all doomed to die. Paul says that in Adam all die - so in Jesus all may have life.

But - I think that a baby has never had the opportunity to sin of their own accord. They have a sinful mind/flesh and they will die, but they have not committed sinful acts for which they can be judged.

Biblical support for an idea long these lines can be found in Romans 5, where Paul makes a very cryptic argument about people who lived before God gave the law to Moses:

"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come."

Sin was not ‘charged’ against those who did not have the law, so how can it be ‘charged’ against babies who do not have the capacity to understand the law? Now, in Romans 2 Paul says the law of God is written on the human heart - so each man will be judged by his thoughts that defend and accuse him. God judges based on the heart. But babies have not even had the chance to commit an evil act knowingly.

I think that how God will judge children is not clearly spelled out in the Bible, but we can know that the judge of all the earth will do what is right (Genesis 18:25).

God must be Real to have a Relationship

Now, I know that this point is obvious. But the God of Christianity came down into history in the person of Jesus. He left footprints. The gods of ISKON cannot be historically verified and are simply false gods. So even if ISKON mimics Christian teaching, they are still idols and false gods, which cannot save. We must get to know the true God.

I realize this point would not be easy to make to a follower of ISKON. But it is nonetheless one to keep in mind.

Will think about these things more. Thanks again so much for your thought provoking reply. The Lord bless the conversation.

(Melvin Greene) #5

Wow! This is heavy stuff! I enter this conversation a bit hesitantly. I am not well schooled in eastern religions. And I cannot equal @SeanO answers. They are very well thought out and researched. But, I will attempt to give you my view on some of these questions.

First, in regards to babies and the mentally handicapped going to heaven, I believe the reason might be accountability. What I mean is that babies and the mentally disabled are not held accountable because they have not reached a cognitive level of understanding right and wrong. Sin is a willful act and they don’t have the abilities to determine right and wrong. We believe that God is perfectly righteous in His judgements. He wouldn’t send an eternal soul to an eternal punishment if that soul did not and could not understand what is right and wrong. I’ve heard sin described once as the attempt to fulfill a need, either real or perceived, a part from God. I believe that is a fairly accurate description. I believe this goes along with what @SeanO said about sin being a relational issue, since we are not trusting God to meet that need. That’s my understanding, at least.

I look at the concept of original sin as being much like inheriting certain traits from our parents. It’s in the genes, sort of speaking. When Adam and Eve chose to sin, they became corrupted both spiritually and physically. So, when they had children that corruption was handed down through all generations. If you have two corrupted beings get together and reproduce, you will naturally get corrupted offspring. The Bible tells us that sin is passed down through generations through men, (I believe it’s in one of Paul’s letters). Mary conceived, not with the corrupted seed of man, but by the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus did not have a sin nature. He had to be born of woman so he was fully human. Genesis 3:15 says that God will put enmity between the serpent and the woman and between her seed and the seed of the serpent. The verse goes on to say that the seed of woman shall bruise the head of the serpent and the serpent will bruise the heel of the seed of woman. I believe that God was talking about Jesus as the seed of woman and Satan as the serpent.

You asked some very good questions, @Lakshmismehta. Thanks for starting this conversation.

(Joshua Mathew) #6

@SeanO @Lakshmismehta thank you for asking these questions and having discussions on this topic
the knowledge i got from these discussions will greatly help me to evengelize more effectively among my hindu friends

(Lakshmi Mehta) #7

@SeanO, @Melvin_Greene, thanks so much for your thoughtful answers. Much of what I have learnt about Hinduism is only after my conversion. Thought I can give some more explanation on sin. What is common in new age, Hinduism, ISKCON and Buddhism about the belief of Maya/ignorance is the recognition that we are not just temporary bodies but eternal souls. So living to fulfill the needs of the false identity on earth keeps the soul trapped on earth in suffering. The identity of the soul, the cause of entrapment of soul in the body and ultimate destiny of soul are different in the different views. In monistic Hinduism and new age, the soul is non-different from God, ISKCON maintains soul is similar in nature to God but with limited potency and I think in Buddhism consciousness develops after ignorance due to desire ( not sure here). Other than new age which focuses on self-development, the traditional eastern religions understand self-realization as getting rid of material and subtle desires through devotional process. Ignorance is considered the reason for sin which prevents the perception of God. So sin doesn’t totally break the relationship with God but alters perception of self and God. I hope this helps a little.

I appreciate the further clarity on why innocent babies will not be judged. I was not aware of the distinction between physical death being attributed to sin nature and judgement or the second death being attributed to actual sin. That clears up a lot of confusion for me. This may also be an argument that one could present when someone asks, “what about those who never heard the gospel?”

When it comes to the specific mechanics of how sin nature is transmitted to the soul, I have seen two views - Traducianism - which is basically inheritance of both the soul and body from parents as it is understood that God ceased creation on sixth day. The other view is Creationism- where a new soul is created by God at/ after conception. But both these views have criticisms. For Traducianism, the main criticism is that the essence of a soul can’t be split like our DNA and for Creationism, the main criticism is why would a good God introduce a new soul into a body that would inevitably corrupt it. Where the scripture is not clear, I dont want to speculate too much but I wanted to understand our sin nature in simplest terms. I dont clearly understand what exactly got passed on as sin nature from Adam but that is ok. Bible is pretty clear we need to be born again by the Holy Spirit to be set free from sin in our souls and it even calls the saved as children of God and unsaved as children of the devil. So the simplest scriptural reason for sin nature to me is losing the indwelling presence of Holy Spirit due to original sin. After regeneration at salvation, the continuation of sin can be attributed to the desires of corrupted flesh/mind . That way, I also feel it’s easy to explain why Jesus didn’t have sin nature though He was both God and man. Just explaining myself further clarity.

I am truly thankful for these discussions. I am learning so much just by discussing. Praying for wisdom and divine direction in these discussions. Thanks!

(SeanO) #8

@Lakshmismehta Very good summary of the point about physical death and the second death. I really like the way you worded it.

"I was not aware of the distinction between physical death being attributed to sin nature and judgement or the second death being attributed to actual sin. That clears up a lot of confusion for me. This may also be an argument that one could present when someone asks, ‘what about those who never heard the gospel?’”

Regarding those who have never heard the Gospel here is my response on another thread where I addressed a similar question more fully.

Regarding original sin, I think I will phone a friend and get back to the conversation. I think it is a very important conversation and I appreciate you bringing it up. I am thinking about it at deeper levels. I know what I believe, but I am having to express it in the context of other existing views. Fun stuff!

(SeanO) #9

@Joshua_Mathew Yes, I am glad @Lakshmismehta is starting these great conversations. Please do feel free to jump in as well! I am very glad they are helpful.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #10

Good to hear that @Joshua_Mathew, thank you, We all have unique experiences to learn from each other.

(SeanO) #11

@Lakshmismehta @Melvin_Greene So, I reached out to Steve Gregg to ask him his view on this topic, mainly because I feel he usually presents all historical views of the Church and not just his view, though he does argue for his view generally.

Below are two of his teachings on this topic along with his notes. I really recommend listening to his talks as he hits many points not pointed out in the notes. Here is a summary of three historical views on original sin.

My challenge: Consider Steve’s teachings and these three teachings and then do some prayer / study on which view you believe. If you already hold one view strongly, be willing to reconsider it. Since we are discussing original sin, it will be helpful to know which position you personally hold to go forward.

In addition, consider this question: which position on original sin would resonate most with a follower of ISKON?

Our view of original sin is not something that we should part fellowship over - it should not keep us from worshiping together. So in evangelism to ISKON members if there is one view that they can accept, it would seem important to mention that the Church historically has allowed for that view, even if we do not personally hold it.

1 - Inherited sinful nature [taught by Irenaeus (170 AD), Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican]

My understanding of this view is that the sinful nature, or propensity towards sin, is inherited, but not the guilt - so babies would not be born already condemned. But people would still have a bent towards sin.

By means of our first parents, we were all brought into bondage by being made subject to death. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.493.

And disobedience to God entails death. For that reason, they came under the penalty of death. From that [moment], they were handed over to it. Thus, then, in the day that they ate, in the same day they died. For they became death’s debtors. And it was one day of the creation. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W)

2 - Inherited guilt of Adam’s sin [taught by Augustine (354-430 AD) & Reformers (Luther, Calvin)]

In this view, the federal headship view I believe, babies would be born condemned.

3 - Neither— [taught by Pelagius (354-418 AD) Condemned as heretic by Western Church, vindicated by Eastern Church]

" [The writings of the earliest Greek fathers] show a manifest affinity with the later teachings of Pelagius rather than with those of Augustine. In a measure, it may be said, they prepared the way for Pelagianism…Adam could sin and did sin, and thus came under the power of Satan, death, and sinful corruption. This physical corruption was propagated in the human race, but is not itself sin and did not involve mankind in guilt. There is no original sin in the strict sense of the word. They do not deny the solidarity of the human race, but admit its physical connection with Adam. This connection, however, relates only to the corporeal and sensuous nature, which is propagated from father to son, and not to the higher and rational side of human nature, which is in every case a direct creation of God. It exerts no immediate effect on the will, but affects this only mediately through the intellect. Sin always originates in the free choice of man, and is the result of weakness and ignorance. Consequently infants cannot be regarded as guilty, for they have inherited only a physical corruption." ( Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines, p.128)

Lecture 1 on Original Sin

Lecture 2 on Original Sin

Original Sin and Depravity.docx (153.8 KB)

I think one of the strengths of Steve’s notes and talks is that he gives a good walk through of historical views on this topic. Looking forward to everyone’s thoughts. May Jesus guide our continued discussion.

To summarize the three views, I would say we have:

1 - We have inherited both a sinful nature and the guilt of Adam
2 - We have inherited a sinful nature, but not the guilt of Adam
3 - Our flesh is corrupted and desires that which is against God, but our intellect and will have not been corrupted. They are corrupted by our own choices. We have not inherited the guilt of Adam. This view splits our flesh and our will apart - a sort of dualism regarding the sinful nature I think.

All three views ultimately accept that death came to us through Adam and life through Christ. Though the early Pelagian view seems to have denied the inheritance of any form of sin entirely and perhaps even of death as coming through Adam, but the Pelagian’s views became less extreme. This is my understanding after trying to digest this information - I may be a bit off - especially on Pelagias’ exact views.

(Lakshmi Mehta) #12

@SeanO, thanks so much for going out of your way to provide well-researched answers. Steve Gregg’s notes were very helpful to think about factors I hadn’t considered before and also to be careful about using theological terms such as " total depravity" which could mean different things to different people.

While agreeing the view of original sin is not a cause for division, on looking at the three views, I lean towards the doctrine taught by Iraneus of only inheriting Adam’s sin nature but not the guilt. If we were to inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin then we are being made responsible for personal choices of another. The Bible is clear that God judges each one according to his own work ( 2 Cor 5:10, 1Pet1:17). Steve Gregg shows many references in OT that God doesn’t blame children for father’s sin. As we often see children being affected by parents choices, suffering the consequences (unlike guilt) of Adam’s sin seems fairer and just, especially as God gives us a choice to turn to Him, the giver of eternal life. 1 John 3:4 defines sin as lawlessness and Rom 3:9 , 23 talk about the consequence of how all are under the power of sin and fall short of God’s glory. 1 John 3:8 says, the one who does what is sinful is of the devil…the reason Son of God came is to destroy the devil’s work. So sin nature can be considered a consequence of "enslavement " to the devil brought about by Adam’s actions on all mankind. Though babies may die physically because of separation from eternal source of life but because they have no inherited guilt, have not yet been enslaved by acts of sin, and can’t discern between right and wrong, it seems possible to accept that babies will be in heaven on death.

My question earlier was if sin nature is in the body or the soul. I feel convinced it’s both at the level of body and soul. At soul level as man does not have power to destroy works of the devil in his strength and overcome desires of the flesh ( Rom 8:7) and at body level as many verses in the Bible talk about how the spirit can be willing but the flesh weak ( Roman 7). To answer how Jesus remained pure, we can easily explain that, though Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh , He was without sin as He had power over the devil and the power to overcome desires of the flesh ( Rom 8:3). What’s interesting is that regeneration of both parents doesn’t translate to regeneration of child, and a child needs to make his own choice of accepting or rejecting Jesus. So I am glad Steve Gregg ends his message by saying we dont know how our souls and our parent’s souls are exactly related ontologically.

The understanding of sin that may be most palatable to ISKCON followers is the interpretation where we are not held guilty for another’s sin, so they may go with Iranaeus. They may agree with the Christian on 1John 2:17 the world and its desires is passing away but whoever does the will of God lives forever. And, they may agree also that ignorance ( like Maya) due to hardening of hearts causes separation from the life of God (Eph 4:18). The difference I see is that lust of the world is separate from the Father in Christianity but not in ISKCON ( 1John 2:16). Another difference is that they believe that the degree of guilt of sin at birth varies between people. This difference will lead them to ask a Christian, why the difference in suffering between people?

Thanks again for your answer, very helpful!

(SeanO) #13

@Lakshmismehta Glad it was helpful! Yes, I believe I am in agreement with the position that the sinful nature is inherited but not the guilt as well and I agree with Steve that it is difficult to know exactly how the soul of parent/child is related ontologically. However, I tend to think that while we are not capable of overcoming sin on our own (because our mind and flesh are captive to sin and the devil), that we are capable of choosing to reach out our hand and ask God to help us. So I do not personally think our will is so broken that we cannot ask for help.

In our other thread I believe we discussed differential suffering a bit. Now that we’ve solidified our understanding of the Christian view of original sin on a personal level, what do you think is the next step in comparing it to he ISKON view?

(Lakshmi Mehta) #14

@SeanO, thanks for the question. I spent the day reading " New birth or Rebirth - Ravi Zacharias ", thinking more about the sin nature and contrasting it with ISKCON view of ignorance as cause of sin. Below are some differences I am seeing ( I have also included a few thoughts from earlier posts, so that it’s all in one place)

  1. Original sin is rebellion against a Holy God that brought man under control of evil forces that are separate from God, that man can’t overcome on his own. Man can be as best he can be but still falls short of the glory of God. God being greater, can empower man, cleanse man of sins and present man perfect in holiness. In contrast, Maya is a force of god sent to delude the minds of those who want to be independent of god so that they suffer consequences of pride which results in sin. In this paradigm, god becomes indirectly responsible for evil, taking away the motivation to take shelter from evil in god, leading to self condemnation as opposed to true humility. Man becomes responsible for his own cleansing through prescribed means before he is accepted by their god.

  2. With original sin, we see that we continue to sin even after turning to Jesus, as soul is still caught up in a body that can be influenced by the evil one. If body corruption is a reason for sin, the real hope of stopping sin is only when body is renewed as in resurrection. If Maya happens on contact of the soul with matter, additional lives to become pure is only a false hope. If their god just overlooks sin as a response to man’s sincerity, there is no perfect justice or atonement for all sins.

  3. According to the bible, we ALL fall short of the glory of God despite the earthy disparities between people in status, health, power, talent, etc. Thus original sin abrogates the differences. But in the case of ignorance, the assumption of different levels of sin behind disparities accentuates the differences. Perhaps it could be argued that external disparities in spirituality can be lost given the right amount of pressures/suffering.

  4. Every man is given a free-will to turn to God though separated from God, at least as per one of the interpretations of original sin. But with Maya, karma determines the degree of free-will that a person is born with, creating an inequality in access to god.

  5. Original sin makes a distinction between morality and material desires. Attending to material desires can turn a person toward godliness and physical sustenance is required before one can grow spiritually. Maya on the other hand says all material desires are evil that need cleansing through devotion. If basic needs are considered evil why do we never feel guilty fulfilling these needs? We feel guilty only when we fulfill them beyond our need.

  6. Through original sin, man maintains that all his goodness is only in God producing humility. But in Maya, man’s goodness in ignorance asserts man can be good without god. With this theory, man’s soul is considered good apart from God making room for pride.

  7. Original sin alone can bring true humility for seeking God as man recognizes his spiritual poverty. Ignorance and the knowledge that man is basically good can’t produce the same level of humility and dependence on God.

  8. Though we inherit sin nature per the Bible, we know we all have unique created souls. But per Maya, we are eternal pre-existent souls that travel through both animals and humans. If souls always existed and not created, how can they be separate from god (who is defined as the cause of all causes) that too with different wills?

Feel free to give feedback on these aspects. Thank you for your prayers and input. I am feeling more confident in defending my stance at least on topics we have considered thus far.

(SeanO) #15

@Lakshmismehta Thank you for sharing those thoughts! Wow - some quotes that really stood out to me are below. I think what stood out to me the most was the reality that in the ISKON an inaccurate view of both deity and humanity is presented - with deity being a partial cause of sin and humanity having to ‘work off’ their karma.

One additional thought your post sparked - Are not both differential suffering and differential karma unfair? At least differential suffering is temporary compared to eternity, but differential karma follows you through many lives.

As always, very thought provoking. Glad you have more confidence on this issue and looking forward to any future threads - on this topic or others. I’ve learned a lot. The Lord grant you success in sharing what you have learned with your family!

“But with Maya, karma determines the degree of free-will that a person is born with, creating an inequality in access to god.”

“Maya on the other hand says all material desires are evil that need cleansing through devotion. If basic needs are considered evil why do we never feel guilty fulfilling these needs? We feel guilty only when we fulfill them beyond our need.”

“Original sin alone can bring true humility for seeking God as man recognizes his spiritual poverty. Ignorance and the knowledge that man is basically good can’t produce the same level of humility and dependence on God.”

(Lakshmi Mehta) #16

@SeanO, That’s a great observation you make about humanity having to pay off something that their god was at least partially responsible for. It is so sad, deceptive and unfair. While the Christian God allows evil choices of created beings for the good of those who trust God, their god is creating people with a tendency to choose evil through Maya.

Are not both differential suffering and differential karma unfair? At least differential suffering is temporary compared to eternity, but differential karma follows you through many lives.

I agree! They came up with a philosophy of differential karma over many lives in trying to explain differential suffering of one life. Heres one more problem, the restrictive effects of free-will and the degree of Maya in each birth is proportional to the degree of sin. So one who is ignorant will become more ignorant in the next life further reducing the chances to rise from ignorance to goodness. Your questions are so helpful in sorting out the fallacies.

Yes, I hope I will be prepared next time a discussion comes up. I need boldness with humility and trust in God amidst conversations. I praise God that this has been helpful for you too.