Genesis 3:6, Augustine’s Original Sin and the Evil of Sex

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

//St. Augustine was a profound thinker, but he did have an odd hang-up. It was that three-letter word: sex. Have you ever wondered how the most influential theologian of all time justified the doctrine of Original Sin? His logic works like this:

Adam and Eve were rational beings who strayed to irrationality. Where once they were in control of their emotions and passions, that gave way as they ate the apple and learned a new trick: how to make children. Thus, by cooperating in irrationality, mankind was born.

Now, there is no sexual desire accompanying the birth of a child; it comes months beforehand. Indeed, there can be sexual desire even when no child is wanted. Yet arousal is required, which Augustine considered “disordered passion,” meaning the body and emotions were outside the proper control of the mind. It is in this state of “disordered passion” that conception occurs, and children bear the marks of their conception. Thus, every child is born with the mark of sin, even though she committed no sin on her own.

So children do not inherit sinfulness from their parents according to Augustine; they are born in sin. In this way, “original” refers not only to the very first sin in the Garden of Eden, which is then passed on to all future generations, but to the sin in which conception occurs. The sin is “original” in that is the first sin of anyone’s new life. The child cannot help but grow up in sin, a slave to these “disordered passions.” Every facet of our lives is disordered; hence the doctrine of “total depravity.”

Here is where I get lost in the argument. God said if Adam and Eve disobeyed, they would die. If Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to evil, and if by this evil they began to procreate, doesn’t this mean it was actually their sin which guaranteed everlasting life?

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2 Comments

  1. Wendy

    If I recall correctly, Augustine’s warped theological doctrine of original sin is a psychological projection from his life prior to conversion to Christianity when he lacked any self-control and was sexually promiscuous. It clearly affected him and he likely was having difficulty dealing with his sense of shame. His “doctrine” seems to be his rationalization.

    But, prior to the banishment of Adam and Eve from Eden, Augustine conveniently forgets God’s command a couple chapters earlier in Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply” their progeny to the ends of the earth. Seems God blesses procreation. Augustine also ignores Jesus’ attitudes and teachings. Jesus didn’t seem to think children were born into sin; it was adults’ learned, wayward ideas that could lead “these little ones” astray — that’s the sin. Jesus taught that to discover the Kingdom, one needed to become like a little child. Little children themselves are spotless. Recall the song from “South Pacific” — “You’ve got to be carefully taught” how to hate and sin.

    Augustine was a sick puppy regarding his attitude towards sex, and we’ve suffered the consequences of “original sin” for 1700 years – shameful, distorted, self-perceptions that we are born “wrong” or “sinful”. Ugh.

  2. Lee Harmon

    Thanks, Wendy! I agree. Oddly, every church historian has a different take on Augustine and his psychological profile! :)

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