According to the “Catechism of The Catholic Church” “Sin is an offence against reason, truth and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love of God and neighbour caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.” “In its theological usage, then, the word ‘sin’ is not synonymous with wrong doing, and still less with illegality.” Various theologians have defined sin in different ways. Notable among them is Edmund Hill’s definition of sin as a flaw or distortion in human nature. It must be emphasized that in their bid to explain the origins of sin, theologians have being struggling with the term “Original Sin” as proposed by St. Augustine. Thus some theologians have come to call it Genetic Sin, Hereditary Sin, Inherited Sin, Sin of the World, and a condition of deficiency. I think the problem is semantics and a play on words for it refers to the same thing. The purpose of this essay, therefore, is to mention the names of the proponents of these terminologies and to give a theological critique of these terminologies.
NAMES OF PROPONENTS
Original Sin was propounded by St. Augustine, Genetic Sin, Hereditary Sin and inherited Sin was propounded by Edmund Hill. Sin of the World was by Karl Rahner while Sin as a Condition of Deficiency was by Karl Rahner and Herbert Vorgrimler.
A THEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE OF THE AFORE-MENTIONED TERMINOLOGIES.
“The Church’s teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine’s reflections against Pelagianism and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the protestant reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God’s grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adams fault to bad example…”  “The classical doctrine was given conciliar expression at the Council of Trent which affirmed that Adam’s sin ‘is one of origin and is passed on by propagation not by imitation’. The Council continues ‘ even children who in themselves could have as yet committed no sin, are therefore truly baptized for the remission of sins, so that by regeneration there may be cleansed in them what they contracted by generation’”
Original sin is known in two senses: the Fall of Adam as the "original" sin and the hereditary fallen nature and moral corruption that is passed down from Adam to his descendants. It is called "original" in that Adam, the first man, is the one who sinned and thus caused sin to enter the world. Even though Eve is the one who sinned first, because Adam is the Federal Head (representative of mankind), his fall included or represented all of humanity. Therefore, some hold that original sin includes the falling of all humanity. Some see original sin as Adam's fallen nature passed to his descendants. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned," (Rom. 5:12).Original sin is not a physical corruption, but a moral and spiritual corruption. It could be compared to the Reformed Doctrine of Total Depravity which states that sin has touched all parts of what a person is: heart, mind, soul, will, thoughts, desires, etc. There has been much debate over the nature of the sin of Adam and how it affected mankind. Pelagius taught that Adam's sin influenced the human race only as a bad example and that all people are born in the same state as Adam was before his fall. Apart from the traditional meaning of Original sin, some scholars think that the phrase ‘Original Sin’ is misleading because that is not what the Latin word ‘Originale’ means but ‘Originale’ has to do with the beginning. That is why l could not agree more with Edmund Hill when he says that Original Sin “ Is not the first sin nor any particular actual sin which is in no sense a copy of other sins… it means sin which we derive from our origins.” Edmund Hill further opines that Original Sin is the sin in us; the sin of humanity and not the particular sin of the first human being. It is against this background that some scholars prefer the use of the phrase “Originating Sin”. We may here refer to an overwhelming power of corruption that has the capacity to corrupt the human person to miss the mark all the time, hence needing the grace of God to be fully human as the creator had wanted humanity to be. It is therefore not a kind of innate depravity and corruption believed to be transmitted to Adams descendants because of his sin. Edmund Hill argued that it is a Sin we acquire in and through our origins; a sin of our nature as such and not personal or particular sin personally committed and not inherited biologically by others. That is the more reason why St. Augustine could call it “sin of nature or feebleness of nature.
Again, original sin and its impact on the human being makes him aware of the abuse of freedom in human history and its impact on human beings. It is a distortion of the ontological holiness ; a destruction of the innate grace. It calls our attention to the rejection of God’s absolute offer of himself. The Calvinistic view sees one as unable to overcome his sin apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, a power possessed only when one repents of his sin and turns in reliance upon Christ and His atoning sacrifice for sin upon the cross. One problem with this view is in explaining how infants and those incapable of committing conscious sin are saved (2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 18:3; 19:14), since they are nonetheless held responsible for Adam’s sin. Millard Erickson, author of Christian Theology, feels this difficulty is resolved as follows: “There is a position [view] that...preserves the parallelism between our accepting the work of Christ and that of Adam [Romans 5:12-21], and at the same time, it more clearly points out our responsibility for the first sin. We become responsible and guilty when we accept or approve of our corrupt nature. There is a time in the life of each one of us when we become aware of our own tendency towards sin. At that point we may abhor the sinful nature that has been there all the time...and repent of it. At the very least, there would be a rejection of our sinful makeup. But if we acquiesce in that sinful nature, we are in effect saying that it is good. In placing our tacit approval upon the corruption, we are also approving or concurring in the action in the Garden of Eden so long ago. We become guilty of that sin without having to commit a sin of our own.” The advantage of this doctrine is that it deals with the problem of evil without getting rid of God’s omnipotence, human freewill, or personal responsibility. That human beings are made in the divine image cannot be overemphasised but a flaw has been introduced that they cannot remove on their own. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia, God is humanity’s creator and out of love for his creation, he bestowed on us divine gifts which were not ours by right, but only made available to us through his generosity; those gifts being the complete mastery of our passions, exemption from death, sanctifying grace and the vision of God in the next life. As was his right, God made the loyalty and obedience of the head of the human family, Adam, the condition by which we would continue to receive those gifts throughout perpetuity. God’s love is therefore unconditional. Adam failed to hold up his end of this covenant and therefore those gifts were withdrawn, not only from him but from his children and heirs. But it has been because of God’s unceasing love that he has nevertheless given us the means to regain those gifts in the person of Christ- something he was in no way bound or obligated to do. However, many have raised objections to these namely if God were really good and truly loved us, he would not require anything from us that our failure to provide would bring about any sort of penalty. Again, that the story of the fall is internally inconsistent because the fruit of the tree brought knowledge of good and evil and without that knowledge one cannot sin. Therefore, humanity’s disobedience cannot be held against them. More so, there was an objection about why we are being punished for the wrong we have not done. The aforesaid are genuine objections to the doctrine of Original Sin but, we are all in some sense responsible for the deeds performed by the groups to which we belong. As a Ghanaian, l shoulder some of the responsibility for the action taken by my government and as an individual, l shoulder the responsibility of sin. Thus we do participate in original sin to the extent that we perpetuate it. Every moment of our lives, we are presented with Adam’s choice and more often than not we choose to evade our duties to ourselves, our fellow human beings, and our world and our creator.
Furthermore, in contrast to Jesus, the source of life, Paul painted Adam as the cause of our sinful condition into which all humans are born (original sin).
Genesis chapter three was thought to be the biblical foundation for it. But scholars now admit that the third chapter of Genesis tells us nothing about what happens at the beginning of time. Instead of describing an historical first sin, it presents an ingeniously simple picture of what every sin really is: the human self-assertion of those who want to be God, who want to go their own way in deciding what is right or wrong. The faith- core of the doctrine of original sin is that without grace no human being can rise to the level of existence God has planned for us. Even with grace, we will continually fall, because we are free and grace will always respect our freedom. It is significant that a new rite of baptism no longer emphasises liberation from original sin as a primary purpose of the sacrament, but initiation into the Christian community; an incorporation into the holy body of Christ.
Also, the dogma makes us strictly responsible for the fault of Adam. That is a misconception of our doctrine. Our dogma does not attribute to the children of Adam any properly so-called responsibility for the act of their father, nor do we say that original sin is voluntary in the strict sense of the word. It is true that, considered as "a moral deformity", "a separation from God", as "the death of the soul", original sin is a real sin which deprives the soul of sanctifying grace. It has the same claim to be a sin as has habitual sin, which is the state in which an adult is placed by a grave and personal fault, the "stain" which St. Thomas defines as "the privation of grace" (I-II:109:7; III:87:2, ad 3), and it is from this point of view that baptism, putting an end to the privation of grace, "takes away all that is really and properly sin", for concupiscence which remains "is not really and properly sin", although its transmission was equally voluntary (Council of Trent) .We become responsible and guilty when we accept or approve of our corrupt nature. There is a time in the life of each one of us when we become aware of our own tendency toward sin. At that point we may abhor the sinful nature that has been there all the time...and repent of it. At the very least there would be a rejection of our sinful makeup. But if we acquiesce in that sinful nature, we are in effect saying that it is good. In placing our tacit approval upon the corruption, we are also approving or concurring in the action in the Garden of Eden so long ago. We become guilty of that sin without having to commit a sin of our own.”
This terminology for Original sin was vouched by Edmund Hill. He, however, called for its restricted usage because of its biological implications. Genetic sin is not the personal sin of an individual transmitted to the offspring. What is genetic is passed on through reproduction. The primal sin from Adam is not passed on by reproduction. Referring to it as genetic is very problematic. This is because, the question of guilt and responsibility and what really urged Adam to sin come in here. This term could be well understood from the lenses of the council of Trent as it used the arguments of Augustine against Pelagius to define sin as “… one in origin and passed on by propagation and not by imitation.” And here propagation means the inherent antecedent sinfulness of men and women even before they have been exposed to bad example and have began to sin personally. Thus genetic can be used not in the biological sense but as a spiritual reality affecting man in his real existence, not needing imitation or learning in an environment.
CONDITION OF DEFICIENCY
In the dictionary of Theology, Rahner and Vorgrimler make reference to some scholars who prefer a condition of deficiency. This is comprehensible because creation was considered to be good and later evil came in and so deficiency. But the problem comes when it is explained to mean that we were created deficient. Then we will be accusing God to have created evil. God did not create evil but evil is the privation of the good and this comes about as a result of the moral choices we make. Thus in Adam, man became deficient because of the choice he made. Man, it is said is the synthesis of free will and destiny. In as much as man is destined for salvation, man has the free will to consent to his salvation. St. Augustine puts it succinctly when he said that when God decided to create us, he did not consult us but he cannot save us without our consent.
Therefore, some hold that original sin includes the falling of all humanity. Some see original sin as Adam's fallen nature passed to his descendants. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned," (Rom. 5:12).Hereditary or original or inherited sin does not refer to the so-called inherited sin from Adam. The idea of inheriting real sin from a putative Adam makes a mockery of the Justice of God. It must make those with a strong intuitive perception doubt the truth of such teachings. Hereditary sin was the consequence of the Fall of Man! According to Pope Pius XI original sin “Is the hereditary but impersonal fault of Adam’s descendants, who have sinned in him (Romans 5:12. It is the loss of grace, and therefore of eternal life, together with the propensity to evil, which everybody must, with the assistance of grace, penance, resistance and moral effort, repress and conquer. The passion and death of the son of God has redeemed the world from the hereditary curse of sin and death.”  I could not agree more with what the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” teaches about original sin when it says that:
Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death and inclined to sin- an inclination to evil that is called ‘concupiscence’. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’ grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God , but the consequence for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.
During the Protestant Reformation the German reformer Martin Luther and the Swiss reformer John Calvin maintained the Augustinian emphasis on original sin and on God's grace as the means of redemption. The Swiss religious reformer Huldreich Zwingli regarded sin as an inherited disease. This doctrine is called Arminianism. Arminians believe that Adam’s sin has resulted in the rest of mankind inheriting a propensity to sin commonly referred to as having a “sin nature.” This sin nature causes us to sin in the same way that a cat’s nature causes it to meow—it comes naturally. According to this view, man cannot stop sinning on his own; that is why God gives a universal grace to all to enable them to stop. This grace is called prevenient grace. And according to this view, we are not held accountable for Adam’s sin, just our own. This teaching runs contrary to the verb tense chosen for “all sinned” in Romans 5:12 and also ignores the fact that all bear the punishment for sin (death) even though they may not have sinned in a manner similar to Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:14-15,18). Therefore, inherited sin is the physical inheritance of a distorted brain, which if left unchecked will now lead to real sin because the full activity of the unchecked intellect always draws away from God. This is the great hereditary enemy that lies within every man, ready to ruin him and indeed it will if left unchecked.
Therefore, there could not have been anything like the widely held belief of the inheritance of real sin from an Adam. The distorted physical brain leads to a great tendency to sin, nothing more. This does not eliminate our responsibility as individuals to use our free wills for the good.
SIN OF THE WORLD
Augustine taught that men inherit natural corruption from Adam. At the return of Christ and the resurrection of all Christians, the sin nature will be done away with. Thus because it is the sin of the world, Jesus came to die for all and not for some selected few.
In as much as man has the propensity towards sin because of the fall, l believe strongly that man has the propensity towards holiness and this should be the project of our lives. Original Sin should not be an excuse for us to continue to remain in sin because “... He chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4). Original Sin is a message of hope for our screwed-up world. It says that the world and each person is created to be good and beautiful and that all the bad things in the world and in us are not part of our nature. The teaching of original sin says that bad things are not inherent in the universe; that the universe was created to be good and only became bad later on. This holds out the hope that the change could somehow be reversed and that harmony can someday be restored.
According to Joseph Komonchak, in his book “New Dictionary of Theology” any satisfactory theory of sin, especially of ‘Original’ sin must reckon with man’s physical, chemical and biological roots in his environment. It was and is, precisely the creationist’s view of human’s origins which disregarded and disregards the pervasive significance of these roots. By reducing biblical mythology to a pseudo- scientific explanation of man’s appearance on earth, the creationists’ have been forced to oppose the findings of modern scientific investigation into the origins man. The question that faces us today is not whether we can jettison the doctrine as an anachronism, but whether we can interpret it in a way which is faithful to its basic insight that it is to be human is to need redemption. (P. 130).
Abd-ru-shin, In the Light of Truth: The Grail Message. Stiftung Gralsbotschaft Publishing Company. Stuttgart, Germany.
APA citation. Harent, S. (1911). Original Sin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Retrieved December 22, 2008 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm
Chapman Geoffrey, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Wellington House, London, 1994.
Glazier Michael, Hellwig Monika K., (Editors), The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1994.
Harrison, Everett F. ed., Baker's Dictionary of Theology, Baker Book House; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1960, page 488.
Hill Edmund, Being Human: A Biblical Perspective, London, 1984.
Komonchak Joseph A., (Ed), New Dictionary of Theology, Welmington, 1987.
Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
MLA citation. Harent, Stéphane. "Original Sin." The Catholic Encyclopaedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911.
22 Dec. 2008
Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge as quoted in Christian Moral Principles by Germain Grisez, Franciscan Press, IIIinois, 1997.
 Geoffrey Chapman, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Wellington House, London, 1994, P. 408.
 Joseph Komonchak A., (Ed), New Dictionary of Theology, Welmington, 1987, Page 114.
 Ibid, P. 91.
 Ibid, P. 122.
 Edmund Hill, Being Human: A Biblical Perspective, London, 1984, P. 66.
 Michael Glazier, Monika K., Hellwig ( Editors), The Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, Liturgical Press, Collegeveille, Minnesota, 1994, P. 806.
 Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge as quoted in Christian Moral Principles by Germain Grisez, Franciscan Press, IIIinois, 1997, P. 333.
 Geoffrey Chapman, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Wellington House, London, 1994, P. 91.