Some Simple Syllogistic Arguments for Original Sin

The doctrine of Original Sin stipulates that 1) Man has an irrational tendency to sin, (i.e., to do that which is contrary to the good) so that man sins even when knowing it is wrong, knowing it is not the good, and does so without his best interest, or the interest of those he loves, directing his actions, and 2) that God did not create man this way, but rather that man inherited this condition from the Fall from grace which dislocated the right relationship between God and mankind.

The religion of Islam stipulates that man does not inherit this concupiscence by being a member of mankind, and by reason of that being not properly related, by nature, to God. Instead, according to Islam each person begins with something like a tabula rasa, and has no more concupiscence to sin then concupiscence to do good.

Christianity says that man inherits a disordered appetite contrary to reason, whereas Islam states that man only cultivates such disorder in himself individually by his own choices, and has no more natural inclination to sin than to do good.

Here’s an inductive argument for the doctrine of Original Sin:

  1. If Original Sin is not true, then we would expect to see a more or less even distribution of intolerably evil people and irreproachably holy people.
  2. We do not observe such an even distribution.
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Note: I think ‘truth’ applies to a ‘doctrine’ in a way the term ‘truth’ cannot apply to an argument; an argument can be correct or incorrect, but it is not true because it is not a proposition. A proposition can be true or false; but a doctrine is a proposition, ergo, etc.

Here’s another:

  1. If Original Sin is not true, then we should expect to see at least some people who never commit mortal sin in their lives.
  2. We do not observe at least some people who never commit mortal sin in their lives.
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Here’s another:

  1. If Original Sin is not true, then we should expect to see about as many people who never commit mortal sin in their lives as people who never commit to an act of extraordinary charity.
  2. We do not observe an even approximately even distribution of such people.
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Here’s another:

  1. If Original Sin is not true, then we should expect to be able to avoid committing mortal sin ourselves by the strength of our own resolve.
  2. We are not able to avoid committing mortal sin ourselves by the strength of our own resolve.
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Here’s another, not inductive:

  1. If Original Sin is not true, then any instance of sin must be caused by our moral ignorance (ignorance of what is truly good, ignorance of what is for the best, etc.).
  2. There are instances of sin not caused by our moral ignorance (where we know that what we do is wrong, and we do that which we do not wish to do).
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.

Finally:

  1. If there are more good arguments to think that Original Sin is true than there are to think it is not true, then we should believe that the doctrine stipulates truth.
  2. There are more good arguments to think that Original Sin is true than there are to think it is not.
  3. Therefore, we should believe that the doctrine of Original Sin stipulates the truth.
  1. If Christianity is true, then the doctrine of Original Sin is true.
  2. Christianity is true (cite all the reasons we have to think Christianity is true)
  3. Therefore, the doctrine of Original Sin is true.
  1. If the doctrine of Original Sin is true, then Christianity is likely to be true.
  2. The doctrine of Original Sin is true.
  3. Therefore, Christianity is likely to be true.

 

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 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. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

~Romans 7:15-25

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About tylerjourneaux

I am an aspiring Catholic theologian and philosopher, and I have a keen interest in apologetics. I am creating this blog both in order to practice and improve my writing and memory retention as I publish my thoughts, and in order to give evidence of my ability to understand and communicate thoughts on topics pertinent to Theology, Philosophy, philosophical theology, Catholic (Christian) Apologetics, philosophy of religion and textual criticism.
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7 Responses to Some Simple Syllogistic Arguments for Original Sin

  1. Simple logic and consistent application of terms will show how this argument goes off the rails.

    Your OS is the conjunction of 2 propositions, therefore various of your premise 1s fail to distinguish between observations which tend to increase the likelihood of the nontheological proposition from those which tend to increase the likelihood of the theological interpretation of the nontheological one.

    Remember that ~OS is satisfied when people have no tendency to irrationally do evil or we did not “inherit” (what a ghastly, racialist term, that) this tendency from a primal man who disobeyed God.

  2. Mike says:

    You seem to be making Christopher Hitchens’ case for him, that under Christianity, we are born or made sick, and commanded to be perfect. Such is the masochistic nature of Christianity. What evidence do you have, if any, that an episode of original sin ever took place historically?

    • More is required to get to Hitchens’ conclusion than that Christianity’s diagnosis of the human condition is correct. We are also given the ability to be perfect by Grace. Christianity would be hopelessly unlivable if we believed we were called to something that we could not achieve even with God’s Grace – the whole idea is that although we cannot do it on our own, we can do it with God’s Grace. Hence, the saints. Hitchens was a great polemicist (one of my favorites in fact), but a clumsy thinker.

      Evidence for original sin, outside of arguments similar to those above, may come from other arguments to think that Christianity is correct, together with arguments to think that Christianity necessarily involves the doctrine of original sin. However, existential evidence is really the strongest in this case. That, however, is private property, and so I can no more hand over that evidence to you than you can hand over to me the same.

      • Mike says:

        Hitchens fully recognized that Christian doctrine allows for us to be forgiven for our imperfections, as do I. The problem we have of course is that the standards of “perfection” that we are commanded to live up to, are impossible and impractical. No human being could ever live up to that arbitrary standard, hence we are indeed created sick. It is built into our very nature and DNA.

        The reason why I think it’s masochistic, is because if you’ve ever been to a sex club, as I have, you’ll notice that the dominant person commands the submissive person to do something impossible, knowing it cannot be achieved. Then when they fail, they get “punished”, but it’s all part of the game – the punishment was planned from the start.

        Christianity does the same thing. It sets up an unrealistic & impossible standard that no one could ever live up to, then when you inevitably fail to meet this standard, you are guilty of failing before god, in need of redemption. It’s the perfect manifestation of mankind’s masochistic personality complex.

        There are many Christians who do not believe in original sin, but they fall out of the mainstream. If original sin is necessary to being a Christian, then you need to do much more than to provide syllogisms that I think all fall flat on evidence. Otherwise, just admit that you believe that original sin literally occurred on faith and not on actual evidence.

      • You must come from an evangelical background. Have you ever thought of looking into the Christian doctrine of theosis? It is also called divinization in Latin theology.

        Catholics believe in it, and it drastically changes the “christian game,” to borrow your metaphor. Look into it and then try to imagine how I, as a Catholic, would answer your previous reply. Seems obvious to me.

        Edit: sorry if it seems like I am being short with you, I don’t mean to be. It’s just that I am typing on a phone, about to go hiking up a small mountain, and I just don’t have the time (or patience, since typing on a phone is tedious) to explain at length why that criticism of Christianity is not only unimpressive but intellectually irresponsible.

  3. Mike says:

    It’s Ok. I actually come from a Catholic background as you do, but not a very strict one. I’m only vaguely familiar with theosis, but it kind of reminds me of the Mormon doctrine that we are all gods with physical earth bodies who are here just to be reunited with our heavenly spirit god-bodies. Enjoy your hike.

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