John Calvin on Original Sin

Abstract

This essay analyses John Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin. It begins by discussing Calvin’s doctrine of the fall and moves to an analysis of the doctrine itself in three components.  These components are the definition and scope of Original sin, the effect of Original sin on each person, and the consequences of the condition of Original sin. The essay then critiques Calvin’s doctrine. First, it brings Calvin into contact with the philosophical and historical criticisms of Pelagius and Voltaire, and then it discusses the impact of advances in the sciences on the validity of Calvin’s doctrine and provides an alternative in the doctrine of Original sin held by C.S. Lewis. Lastly this essay explores the Pastoral implications of Calvin’s doctrine in modern society in light of the analysis and discussion.

 

Introduction

John Calvin’s doctrine of Original Sin has been heavily criticised over time. Edward T. Oakes observes that “No doctrine inside the precincts of the Christian Church is received with greater reserve and hesitation, even to the point of outright denial, than the doctrine of Original sin.”[1]This essay analyses the three major components of Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin. They are, Calvin’s understanding of Original sin as a condition of total depravity, the effects of this state of depravity on a person’s actions, and God’s condemnation of persons for this condition of depravity. The essay then moves to critique Calvin’s doctrine, bringing it into contact with the findings of modern science, as well as philosophical and exegetical critiques of the doctrine and the more modern doctrine of C.S. Lewis. The essay then outlines some possible pastoral implications of the doctrine of Original sin in the modern world. Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin is not a viable option for modern Christians because it is not in accords with our current scientific understanding, it raises extensive theological difficulties and it is based on incorrect partially incorrect exegesis.

 

Analysis

Calvin’s’ doctrine of Original Sin is inextricably linked to his doctrine of the fall. Calvin read Genesis 2-3 literally and believed in a historical fall of a historical pair of people. He saw Adam as a covenantal partner with God and the biological and spiritual head of the human race, who willfully transgressed against God, thereby deciding the fate of the whole human race.[2] For Calvin this transgression went further than mere pride as Augustine had taught, Adam’s defection was grounded in their lack of faith and pride.[3] Calvin believed that this act in itself was the separation of man from God. Calvin believed that as the spiritual and biological head of the human race, the consequences of Adam’s Sin were passed on to the entire human race.[4] Therefore every human being is born with Original Sin. In the institutes Calvin defines Original sin as follows

 

“Original sin, then, may be defined a hereditary corruption and depravity of our nature, extending to all the parts of the soul, which first makes us obnoxious to the wrath of God, and then produces in us works which in Scripture are termed works of the flesh…..being thus perverted and corrupted in all the parts of our nature, we are, merely on account of such corruption, deservedly condemned by God, to whom nothing is acceptable but righteousness, innocence, and purity. This is not liability for another’s fault. For when it is said, that the sin of Adam has made us obnoxious to the justice of God, the meaning is not, that we, who are in ourselves innocent and blameless, are bearing his guilt, but that since by his transgression we are all placed under the curse, he is said to have brought us under obligation. Through him, however, not only has punishment been derived, but pollution instilled, for which punishment is justly due.”[5]

 

From this passage we can gather three vital components of Calvin’s doctrine of Original Sin. Firstly, Original Sin is the corruption and depravity of our nature, which extends to all parts of our soul; we are completely contaminated and enfeebled by sin.[6] Calvin makes a distinction here, the substance of human kind’s bodies and souls is not evil, but has become saturated by evil.[7] In Calvin’s thought sin is a tragedy, humans’ no longer possess the original goodness in which they were created and the glorious image of God has been effaced and blurred[8]. However, Calvin admits that the image of God has not been completely eradicated.[9] Man continues to have gifts given by God such as his reason.[10] However, in Adams posterity these gifts are no longer in the same condition as they were in Adam before the fall.[11] Probably the most startling part of Calvin’s view of Original sin is that he rejects all naturalistic attempts at an explanation of the doctrine.[12] For example he rejects the view that Original sin is an inherited malady passed on by physical process such as biological heredity.[13] Rather, he takes up the view that it is God himself who gave humanity its splendid gifts in Adam and it is God himself who has universally deprived human kind of these gifts through Adam.[14] Therefore in Calvin’s view the blight of Original sin has been universally placed on humanity by God. Calvin’s view is based on the writings of Paul, in particular his comparison between Adam and Christ in Romans 5: 12-21.[15]

 

Secondly, it is this corrupted nature that brings forth individual sins as a bad tree brings forth bad fruit.[16] Calvin is emphatic that people are not idle in their depraved state and lacking righteousness, but are actively seeking and bearing bad fruit.[17] Because of the blight of sin on humanity, the human understanding has been darkened, and the will, which follows what the understanding presents as right, always seeks after sin rather than God. For Calvin, Adam was the only person to ever have true free will; humanity after Adam no longer has this ability and is bound to sin without a choice in the matter.[18] They are bad tree’s which will undoubtedly produce bad fruit; no bad tree can choose to produce good fruit.[19] This differs from Augustine’s doctrine in that Augustine believed that human beings do not do things out of necessity but as a matter of freedom.[20] For Augustine Original sin simply weakened that freedom; it did not annihilate it as Calvin claimed.[21] One can see how Calvin’s doctrine of Original Sin is deeply entwined with his doctrine of predestination. If people are unable to make any choice for God, then it must be God who does the choosing.[22] For Calvin the taint of Original Sin leaves people absolutely unable to respond positively to God, the action in salvation must come from God alone.[23]

 

Thirdly, we are not condemned before God for the fault of Adam, but rather on account of our corrupted nature that has resulted from his trespass. Calvin believed that God can only tolerate purity in his creation; therefore humanity as tainted by Original Sin, is repugnant to God.[24] Calvin disregarded Augustine’s notion that all of humanity has inherited Adam’s guilt, since it would be unfair for God to punish us for what Adam has done.[25] Instead Calvin asserted that it is our state of total depravity due to Original sin and the sin’s that come forth from that state which makes us liable to the condemnation of God.[26] Calvin thought that this view glorified the merits of Christ and focused the sinner on their need for his atonement.[27]

 

Discussion

The earliest criticisms’ of the doctrine of Original sin can be seen in the Patristic period from a dissenter named Pelagius. Pelagius argued that it would be unjust of God to expect people to live up to a law that they cannot possibly live up to.[28] Therefore he asserted that there must be no disposition towards sin in humanity and human kind must have the ability to perfectly live up to the Law of God.[29] For Pelagius all sin was to be understood as willful disobedience to God.[30] Adam’s sin only applied to us by way of our imitation of it.[31] Pelagius came up with one of the most well known objections to the doctrine of Original sin, that of unfairness.[32] It does not seem fair that God would cause all of humanity to be born into a condition of Original sin and then punish them for this condition, which is not of their own making.[33] In light of this objection Calvin’s view seems to fail at the most crucial level in that it jeopardizes the goodness and fairness of God. But does it? It is likely that the Reformers would argue that natural reason, darkened by Original sin, is simply unable to understand the goodness of God’s condemnation of those born with Original sin.[34] Calvin’s usual response to his theological opponents was to remark that Gods motives for doing such an act were good but that we are not in any epistemic position to know these motives.

 

Calvin’s doctrine of Original Sin came under sustained intellectual attack in the thick of enlightenment rationalism with its optimistic stance towards the steady progress of human reason and virtue.[35] Enlightenment thinkers such as Rousseau and Voltaire vehemently opposed the doctrine of Original Sin.[36] Voltaire declared the doctrine to be a blight on humanity, a chain and ball that bound humanity to a pessimistic view of their own moral abilities, thereby prohibiting their moral progress.[37] Voltaire also criticised the doctrine on the grounds that it was formulated rather late in the fourth and fifth centuries by Augustine, rendering it open to rejection.[38]  While this is a valid point, it ignores the doctrines basis in scripture. Calvin’s doctrine is based primarily on his exegesis of certain biblical passages and must be criticised on these grounds. Mark Rapinchuk, the assistant professor of philosophy and religion at the college of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, criticises the biblical basis for the doctrine of Original sin. In particular he assaults the interpretation of the foundational text of Romans 5:12-21. Rapincheck’s main argument against Calvin’s reading of the text is that if Calvin is correct in asserting that if in verse 18a Paul is stating that all are sinners, without exception, as a direct consequence of Adam’s sin, then in 18b he must also be asserting that all, without exception, are saved from their sin by Christ’s atoning death.[39] Therefore consistency in this exegesis would lead us to an affirmation of universalism.[40] Rapinchuk argues that since this would demonstrate a massive inconsistency in Paul’s theology, so this interpretation cannot be correct.[41] Rapinchuk argues that Paul’s intention is quite different to that which is assumed.[42] Rapinchuk proposes that in Roman’s Paul’s primary point of emphasis is that there is no ethnic distinction between Jew and gentile.[43] Therefore in 5:12-21 Paul is seeking to communicate that both Jews and Gentiles are affected by sin and death and that salvation is available to both Jews and Gentiles.[44] So Paul is not, as Calvin claims, advocating a doctrine of Original sin but a universal sinfulness of all peoples, without ethnic distinction.[45] This interpretation challenges the biblical basis for Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin as a condition inherent in each human person but still acknowledges that death and sin came into the world through Adams sin.[46]

 

Calvin’s doctrine of Original Sin appears to stand or fall on whether or not the story of the fall has any historical value.[47] Over the last few hundred years this has been a matter of great controversy. Scientific research lead to Darwin’s theory of evolution and advances in radiocarbon testing which have dissolved any scientific foundation for the doctrine of Young Earth Creationism. The BioLogos website states that current genetic research shows that modern humans descended from a group of several thousand individuals who lived about 150000 years ago in Africa[48]. This raises two significant questions. Firstly, what are we to make of Adam and Eve? And secondly when and how did the first sin occur? The BioLogos foundation outlines three attempts at reconciling original sin and the scientific findings.[49] Firstly, that God endowed this group of humans with his image, distinguishing them from other hominids. He then initiated relationship with this group, or with a single pair that were selected as representatives of this group. After the fall this subset of the population then came to dominate, with other hominids dying off or inter-breeding with this image bearing subset.[50] This view sustains the fall and the doctrine of Original sin, as well as conforming to current scientific developments.[51] Secondly, Genesis could be read as an analogy for every individual human’s rejection of God.[52] This view conforms to the current scientific developments but denies the doctrine of Original Sin and appears to contradict the New Testament Scriptures[53]. It seems that one would be forced to deny biblical inerrancy to take this view since it fails to fit in with the New Testament writers’ assumption of a historical fall.[54] Thirdly, one could read Genesis literally and reject the scientific evidence.[55] Not only is this sticking ones head in the sand but it also ignores the problems in the text itself. For example, the text gives no explanation as to where Cain’s wife or the people of the land of Nod East of Eden came from.[56] It is worthwhile to keep in mind that Calvin lived before the enlightenment and the explosion in scientific knowledge. It is doubtful that Calvin himself would take the literalist view as in many cases he remarks on the biblical author’s lack of scientific understanding.[57] The first view is certainly the most attractive, in that it attempts to reconcile the biblical revelation and the scientific findings rather than denying one or the other.[58] In any case it is clear that the study of Genetics and biology have lead to doubt about the truth of the doctrine of Original Sin. On another note, Mathew Stanford, a Christian Neuroscientist recently wrote a book called The Biology of Sin. In it he argues that Original sin is partly a biologically inherited predisposition towards certain sinful behaviors.[59] This discovery, if correct, disproves Calvin’s assertion that Original sin is not inherited in any natural sense.

 

C.S. Lewis presented a doctrine of Original sin that was similar to that of Calvin’s, yet nuanced for the modern world. Lewis affirmed the universal nature of human sin but he conceived of this condition in a different way than Calvin. Lewis stated that in Adam’s sin humanity “sinned itself out of existence”.[60] The consequence of the fall was the fall back into the purely natural condition from which the human race was raised.[61] God now ruled humankind in a different way, by the laws of nature.[62] Humans became susceptible to the ordinary biological laws of nature and suffered whatever consequences those laws brought about.[63] This condition was transmitted by heredity to all later generations, since it was not an acquired variation but the emergence of a new kind of human.[64] The result of this change is an inherited slant away from God, man has become his own idol and his inclination is now self-ward.[65] Lewis’ view remains biblical and is in concordance with advances in psychology, neuroscience, biology and geology.[66] On the other hand Calvin’s view, created in a less scientifically advanced age is not in accords with our current scientific understanding and cannot be maintained in the face of the evidence.[67]

 

 

Reflection

Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin emphasizes the total depravity of humankind and their inability to do any good without Gods help. For Calvin people are so corrupted by sin that they cannot help but actively pursue sin. Calvin believed that people were condemned for this state of depravity, which was repugnant to God. This doctrine of Original sin has widespread implications for Christian theology, evangelism and life. Firstly, infant baptism is largely based on Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin[68]. In the late Patristic age it was theorized that since infants were born with the taint of Original sin, and were therefore condemned by God for this condition, then it was necessary to baptize babies lest they go to hell for eternity.[69] Therefore If Calvin’s doctrine is true then it seems logical that we should baptize infants.[70]

 

Secondly, Calvin’s doctrine succeeds in emphasizing every person’s desperate need for Christ and his offer of salvation and sanctification. However, In this day and age the apparent contradictions in Calvin’s doctrine of Original sin are more obvious than ever. Calvin’s views make theodicy impossible.[71] Calvin makes lofty appeals to God’s mysterious motives in the face of these kinds of inconsistencies but it seems clear that his doctrine jeopardizes the goodness of God. Modern audiences find this image of God to be repulsive and downright evil, and preaching or teaching this position is incredibly difficult and will undoubtedly cause many to reject the Christian faith in the modern age. To make this worse Calvin’s doctrine also fails to incorporate current increases in our scientific understanding, since it is based on a literalist reading of genesis. If it is asserted this doctrine would further alienate modern westerners from the Church. From the discussion of C.S. Lewis’s doctrine of Original sin we can see that a scientifically informed, apologetically strong and sophisticated doctrine of Original sin is available to us that can deal with the criticisms of the modern world.

 

Thirdly, Voltaire was correct when he suggested that the doctrine of Original sin presents a very pessimistic understanding of humanity. Although this alone does not mean that the doctrine is incorrect, there does seem to be some inherent danger in the belief that one cannot progress morally without continuous divine aid, particularly if in truth human effort and perseverance is also required for the process of sanctification.[72] Calvin’s’ pessimistic view  of the human condition can lead to a lack of effort to better the world and humanities moral condition since these efforts are seen as a waste of time because of the depth of human depravity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”. http://biologos.org/questions/death-before-the-fall (Accessed 12 June, 2012).

 

Calvin, J., Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. 1 Library of Christian Classics Vol. XX, Translated by F. L. Battles, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960).

 

Copan, P., Philosophia Christi, Series 2, 5/2 (2003): 519-541.

 

Elwood, C., Calvin for Armchair Theologians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002).

 

Horton, M.S., “A Shattered Vase: the Tragedy of Sin in Calvin’s Thought” in Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis, edited by David W. Hall and Peter A. Lillback (Philipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2008), 151-167.

 

Lewis, C.S., The Problem of Pain (London: HarperCollins, 1940).

 

McGrath, A. E. Christian Theology: An Introduction 5th Edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010).

 

Niesel, W., The Theology of Calvin Translated by H. Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956).

 

Oakes, E.T., Original Sin: A Disputation,” First Things 87 (1998): 16.

 

Rapinchuk, M., Universal Sin and Salvation in Romans 5:12-21” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42/3 (1999): 427-441.

 

Stanford, M. S., The Biology of Sin: Grace, Hope and Healing for Those Who Feel Trapped (Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010).

 

Voltaire, “Philosophical Dictionary”. http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/v/voltaire/dictionary/chapter353.html (Accessed 12 June, 2012).


[1] E.T. Oakes, “Original Sin: A Disputation,” FT 87 (1998): 16.

[2] W. Niesel, The Theology of Calvin Tr. H. Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956), 84-85.

[3] Calvin see’s Adam’s sin as a rejection of God and his Word. Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 81. C. Elwood, Calvin for Armchair Theologians (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 65.

[4] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 83-86.

[5] J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. 1 Library of Christian Classics Vol. XX, Tr. F. L. Battles, (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), 251, emphases added.

[6] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 248-249. Calvin uses Eph 2:3, Rom 5:19, 1 Cor 15:22, and John 3:5-6 to back up his assertion that Adam’s sin has severely tainted the nature of all people over the Pelagian belief that Adam’s sin was propagated by imitation. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 248-249.

[7] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 253-254

[7] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 80-81. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 253-254. He does this to maintain his belief that man’s created nature is primarily good. Something’s nature is that which is essential to its being. By denying that sin is now part of humanities nature, he denies that it is essential to humanities being, which was originally designed good by God.

[8] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 80-81. M.S. Horton, “A Shattered Vase: the Tragedy of Sin in Calvin’s Thought” in Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes: Essays and Analysis, eds. David W. Hall and Peter A. Lillback (Philipsburg, N.J.: P&R, 2008), 154-155.

[9] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 81.

[10] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 81.

[11] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 81.

[12] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 84.

[13] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 84.

[14] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 84.  Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 250. Dr Mike O’Neil has raised the question of how the malady of sin is spread in Calvin’s doctrine, due to Calvin’s belief that each new soul is created ex nihilo and his rejection of Augustine’s understanding of the transfer of sin through concupiscence. However, it appears that for Calvin this is not a problem, as sin is not inherited in the sense of being passed on but is rather imputed on to all person’s by an act of God.

[15] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 248.

[16] This metaphore is used by Jesus and Paul when discussing the human condition and the relation between a person and their works. Calvin quotes Galatians 5:19-21 as his biblical basis for the arguement. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 253-254.

[17] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 82-83. Calvin discusses this in the following passage. “Wherefore those who have defined original sin as the lack of the original righteousness with which we should have been endowed, no doubt include, by implication, the whole fact of the matter, but they have not fully expressed the positive energy of this sin. For our nature is not merely bereft of good, but is so productive of every kind of evil that it cannot be inactive.” Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 251-252.

[18] Neilson, The Theology of Calvin, 86-87.

[19] However, Calvin plays at his usual theological double talk, insisting that we sin of our own accord and not by necessity. He does this by making a philosophical distinction between the causes of our behaviour. He claims that we freely decide for evil; however because of our condition we cannot do anything other than choose to do evil. This is simply determinism disguised. Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 87.

[20] A.E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction 5th Ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010), 351.

[21] Augustine still believed that humanity had a disposition to sin but could by effort choose not to commit some actual sins. McGrath, Christian Theology, 351. Calvin’s view of the understanding and the will are partly based on philosophical assumptions. They also stem from Jesus’ teaching that good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit and Paul’s use of ‘the works of the flesh’ in Gal 5:19-21. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 251. His use of these scriptures is highly influenced by his philosophical assumptions and he takes the metaphors much further than is warranted.

[22] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 87.

[23] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 87.

[24] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 85-86. Calvin realizes that this seems unfair but affirms that Adam’s representative status was ordained by God. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 251.

[25] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 251

[26] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 85-86.

[27] Niesel, The Theology of Calvin, 85. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 259.

[28] Voltaire, “Philosophical Dictionary”. http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/v/voltaire/dictionary/chapter353.html (Accessed 12 June, 2012), section II.

[29] McGrath, Christian Theology, 352-353

[30] McGrath, Christian Theology, 352.

[31] Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 248.

[32] McGrath, Christian Theology, 352.

[33] Or in Augustine’s conception of the doctrine, for God to impugn the guilt of Adam’s trespass to all people. McGrath, Christian Theology, 352. To make things worse both Augustine and Calvin believed that unbaptised babies were still born into Original sin and were therefore liable to eternal hell if they were not baptised.

[34] The reformers often emphasised the sinful use of darkened the reason as a weapon against the creator God as part of the condition of Original sin. Horton, “A Shattered Vase”, 157. Although, this argument is circular as it assumes the affects of Original sin in order to defend Original sin.

[35] P. Copan, PC, Series 2, 5/2 (2003): 519.

[36] McGrath, Christian Theology, 69.

[37] McGrath, Christian Theology, 69.

[38] McGrath, Christian Theology, 69. Voltaire, “Philosophical Dictionary”, Section II.

[39] M. Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation in Romans 5:12-21” JETS 42/3 (1999): 427-428.

[40] Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 427.

[41] The book of Romans in itself deals a death blow to any basis for biblical universalism (Romans 10:13; 9:27; 11:5). Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 431. Paul is a highly sophisticated theologian and is unlikely to blatantly contradict himself in the same letter. Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 431.

[42] Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 433.

[43] Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 433.

[44] Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 433.

[45] Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 440.

[46] Rapinchuk, Universal Sin and Salvation”, 431.

[47] If there is no original sin of the first man then there can be no effects of this original sin.

[48] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”. http://biologos.org/questions/death-before-the-fall. Although this date is highly debatable and there could well have been less people in the group.

[49] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”.

[50] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”.

[51] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”.

[52] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”.

[53] For example Paul seems to assume Adam’s historicity as a part of his argument in Romans 5

[54] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”.

[55] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”.

[56] Biologos Foundation, “Did death occur before the Fall?”. Gen 4:16.

[57] Calvin remarks on how scientific understanding comes from God and should be accepted unless we wish to dishonour the spirit of God. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 273-274.

[58] I have often considered the idea that a group of humans were endowed with the Image of God and came to relate to their creator in a covenantal relationship. However, they broke the first covenantal relationship with God and slid into sin over time, rejecting the knowledge of God until the knowledge of God was lost. God gave them over to this chosen path and its consequences, which were an inclination away from God and towards sin, and the loss of some of the gifts of God such as immunity to disease and death. This view is based on Romans 1:18-32, which seems to detail a slide into depravity and a loss of the knowledge of God over time.

[59] M.S. Stanford, The Biology of Sin: Grace, Hope and Healing for Those Who Feel Trapped (Colorado Springs: Biblica Publishing, 2010), 10.

[60] In Lewis’s eyes the Original sin is transmitted by heredity, in Contrast to Calvin’s view that Original sin is placed upon every human by an act of God. In Calvin’s view God is actively causing the condition of Original sin as punishment for Adam’s sin whereas he is much less active in Lewis’s view.  Lewis’ view makes more sense of how God could fairly judge humanity since they still have an ability to choose to do the right thing. C.S.Lewis, The Problem of Pain (London: HarperCollins, 1940), 79.

[61] Problem, Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 78.

[62] Lewis was a theistic evolutionist who accepted the findings of science and found a way to reconcile these findings with the Christian faith. He believed that humankind was raised from the higher anthropoids at a certain time of his choosing, thereby creating a new species with consciousness and a power over the natural world. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 63-85.

[63] The mind also fell under the laws of psychological association Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 77.

[64] Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 79

[65] Although in Lewis’ eyes man can still turn back to God. However, only by great effort. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 78-79

[66] Lewis’ view lacks many of the philosophical difficulties inherent in Calvin’s view, though it does contain its own difficulties.

[67] Calvin can hardly be blamed for his scientific backwardness, since he did not know what we know now.

[68] Voltaire, “Philosophical Dictionary”, section II.

[69] Or before Calvin’s time they were believed to be sent to hell or limbo because they had inherited Adam’s guilt.

[70] The question arises as to what sort of God would send unbaptised infants to eternal hell.

[71] On Calvin’s understanding, not only is God punishing people for the condition he has placed them in, which seems unjust but he is also punishing them for eternity which increases the problem.

[72] Calvin’s doctrine may cause some to feel as if they can never overcome the sin in their lives. This may lead to an unhealthy self image.

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