Summary Against Modern Thought: Solution To Objections To Original Sin

Summary Against Modern Thought: Solution To Objections To Original Sin

Previous post.

The rebuttals of the objections. Not a short chapter. It may be helpful to open in a window last week’s post to follow along.


1 Now, for the solution of these points one should first set down that certain signs of the original sin appear with probability in the human race. For, since God takes care of human acts so as to give reward for good works and set a penalty for bad works, as was previously shown, it is from the very penalty that we can assure ourselves of the fault.

Now, the human race commonly suffers various penalties, both bodily and spiritual. Greatest among the bodily ones is death, and to this all the others are ordered: namely, hunger, thirst, and others of this sort. Greatest, of course, among the spiritual penalties is the frailty of reason: from this it happens that man with difficulty arrives at knowledge of the truth; that with ease he falls into error, and that he cannot entirely overcome his beastly appetites, but is over and over again beclouded by them.

Notes And don’t we know it.

2 For all that, one could say that defects of this kind, both bodily and spiritual, are not penalties, but natural defects necessarily consequent upon matter. For, necessarily, the human body, composed of contraries, must be corruptible; and the sensible appetite must be moved to sense pleasures, and these are occasionally contrary to reason.

And, since the possible intellect is in potency to all intelligibles, possessing none of them actually, but by nature acquiring them from the senses, one must arrive at knowledge of the truth with difficulty, and due to the phantasms one with ease deviates from the truth.

But, for all that, let one weigh matters rightly, and he will be able to judge with probability enough, granted a divine providence which for every perfection has contrived a proportionate perfectible, that God united a superior to an inferior nature for this purpose: that the superior rule the inferior, and that, if some obstacle to this dominion should happen from a failure of nature, it would be removed by His special and supernatural benefaction.

And the result would be, since the rational soul is of a higher nature than the body, belief that the rational soul was united to the body under such a condition that in the body there can be nothing contrary to the soul by which the body lives; and, in like fashion, if reason in man is united to the sensual appetite and other sensitive powers, that the reason be not impeded by the sensible powers, but be master over them.

Notes The second paragraph is proof of itself, in the time it took you to understand it.

3 Thus, then, according to the teaching of the faith, we set it down that man from the beginning was thus established by God: As long as man’s reason was subject to God, not only did the inferior powers serve reason without obstacle, but the body also could not be impeded in subjection to reason by any bodily obstacle, God and His grace supplying, because nature had too little for perfecting this establishment. But, when reason turned away from God, not only did the inferior powers rebel from reason, but the body also sustained passions contrary to that life which is from the soul.

4 Of course, although defects of this kind may seem natural to man in an absolute consideration of human nature on its inferior side, nonetheless, taking into consideration divine providence and the dignity of human nature on its superior side, it can be proved with enough probability that defects of this kind are penalties. And one can gather thus that the human race was originally infected with sin.

5 These things now seen, one must answer to the points made as contrary objections.

6 Now, there is no awkwardness in saying that when one sins the sin is propagated to all in their origin, even though each is praised or blamed according to his own act; as the first argument attempted to proceed. For things go one way in matters of a single individual, and another way in matters of the entire nature of a species, since “by participation in the species many men are as one man,” as Porphyry says.

A sin, then, which refers to an individual man or his person is not imputed to another as fault unless he be the sinner, since personally one is divided off from another. But, if there is a sin which looks to the nature of the species itself, there is nothing awkward about its propagation from one to another, just as the nature of the species is communicated through one to others. But, since sin is a kind of evil of rational nature, and evil a privation of good, one judges on the basis of the missing good whether a sin is related to a nature commonly or to a person.

Of course, actual sins which are committed by all men commonly deprive the person of the sinner of a good: grace, for instance, and the due order of the parts of the soul. This is why they are personal, and why, when one sins, the sin is not imputed to another. But the first sin of the first man not only deprived him of his proper and personal good—namely, grace, and the due order of the parts of the soul—he was deprived as well of a good related to the common nature.

For as we said above human nature was established in its first beginning so that the inferior powers were perfectly subject to reason, the reason to God, the body to the soul, and God was by His grace supplying what nature lacked for this arrangement. Now, this kind of benefit which some call “original justice” was conferred on the first man in such wise that he was to propagate it to his descendants along with human nature.

But in the sin of the first man reason withdrew itself from the divine subjection. And it has followed thereon that the lower powers are not perfectly subject to the reason nor is the body to the soul; and this is not only the case for the first sinner, but the same consequent defect follows into his posterity and to the posterity in whom the original justice mentioned was going to follow.

Thus, then, the sin of the first man from whom all other men are derived according to the teaching of faith was not only personal in that it deprived the first man of his own good, but natural, also, in that it deprived him and consequently his descendants of the benefit bestowed on the entire human nature. Thus, too, this kind of defect which is in others as a consequence from the first parent still has in others the essentials of fault so far as all men are counted as one man by participation in the common nature. For one discovers the voluntary character in a sin of this kind in the will of the first parent much as the action of the hand has the essentials of fault from the will of the first mover, which is the power of reason; as a result, in a sin of nature judgments are made about the diverse men as though parts of a common nature, much as they are made in a personal sin about diverse parts of one man.

Notes Again, man is broken fundamentally because of Adam’s sin; his very “DNA” was corrupted, where I don’t mean just the physical nature, and now so are we all. See 8 below.

7 In this way, then, it is true to say that when one sinned, “all sinned in him,” as the Apostle says, and on this basis the second argument made its proposal. Other men were present in Adam, however, not in act, but only in his power as in an Original principle. Nor are they said to have sinned in him as exercising any act, but so far as they belong to Adam’s nature which was corrupted by sin.

8 Let the sin be propagated from the first parent to his descendants. Nevertheless, it does not follow, although the subject of sin is the rational soul, that the rational soul is propagated along with the seed; as the progress of the third argument had it. For the manner of propagating this sin of nature which is called original is like that of the very nature of the species, and this nature, although it is perfected by the rational soul, is for all that not propagated with the seed; such propagation is only of the body fitted by nature to receive such a soul. It was in Book II that we showed this.

9 We grant that Christ was a descendant of the first parent in the flesh. For all that, He did not incur the contamination of original sin as the fourth argument concluded. For it was only the matter of His human body which He received from the first parent; the power to form His body was not derived from the first parent, but was the power of the Holy Spirit, as was shown. Accordingly, He did not receive human nature from Adam as an agent although He did receive it from Adam as from a material principle.

10 One should consider this, also: The natures origin passes along the defects mentioned because the nature has been stripped of that help of grace which had been bestowed on it in the first parent to pass on to his descendants along with the nature. Now, since this stripping came from a voluntary sin, the consequent defect has the character of fault. Hence, defects of this kind are faulty when referred to their first principle, which is the sin of Adam; and they are natural when referred to the nature already stripped. Accordingly, the Apostle says: “We were by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3). In this way one answers the fifth objection.

11 Clearly, then, from what has been said, the vice of origin in which the original sin is caused comes from the failure of a principle, namely, the gratuitous gift which human nature at its institution had had bestowed upon it. To be sure, this gift was in a sense natural: not natural as caused by the principles of the nature, but natural because it was given to man to be propagated along with his nature. But the sixth objection was dealing with the natural which is caused by the principles of the nature.

12 The seventh objection proceeds in the same way, from a defect of a natural principle belonging to the nature of the species. Of course, what comes from a defect of a natural principle of this kind happens in but few cases. But the defect of original sin comes from the defect of a principle added over and above the principles of the species, as we said.

13 Be it observed, also, that in the act of the generative powers there can be no vice in the genus of actual sin which depends on the will of a single person, because the act of the generative power is not obedient to reason or to will, as the eighth objection went. But nothing prevents our finding the vice of original sin, this refers to nature, in an act of the generative power, since acts of the generative powers are called natural.

14 The ninth objection, of course, can readily be answered from the points already made. For sin does not take away that good of nature which belongs to the nature’s species. But that good of nature which grace added over and above nature could be removed by the sin of our first parent. This was said before.

15 From the same points one easily answers the tenth objection. For, since privation and defect correspond to one another mutually, in that characteristic in original sin are the children made like to the parents in which the gift also, granted the nature in the beginning, would have been propagated to their descendants; for, although the gift did not belong to the essentials of the species, it was given by divine grace to the first man to flow from him into the entire species.

16 This, too, must be considered: Let one by the sacraments of grace be cleansed from original sin so that it is not imputed a fault in him (and for him personally this is to be freed from original sin); for all that, the nature is not entirely healed; therefore, in an act of the nature the original sin is transmitted to his descendants. Thus, then, in a man who generates there is no original sin in so far as he is a given person; and it also happens that in the act of generation there is no actual sin, which the eleventh argument was proposing. But so far as the man who generates is the natural principle of generation, the infection of the original sin which bears on nature remains in him and in his act of generation.

17 Be it observed, also, that the actual sin of the first man passed over into nature because the nature in him had been further perfected by the benefit bestowed on the nature. But, when by his sin the nature was stripped of the benefit, his act was simply personal. Hence, he could not satisfy for the entire nature, nor could he make the good of nature whole once more by his act. But the only satisfaction of which he was somewhat capable was that which had a bearing on his own person. Therein the answer to the twelfth argument appears.

18 In like manner, of course, one answers the thirteenth, for the sins of later parents find a nature stripped of the benefit which was at the outset granted to the nature itself. Hence, from those sins no defect follows which is propagated to the descendants, but only a defect which infects the person of the one sinning.

19 Thus, then, it is neither unsuitable nor irrational to affirm the presence of original sin in men, and thus the heresy of the Pelagians, which was a denial of original sin, is confounded.


  1. mcdil44

    Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. Thank you.

  2. Hagfish Bagpipe

    ”19. Thus, then, it is neither unsuitable nor irrational to affirm the presence of original sin in men…”

    First he set up the arguments denying original sin, presenting them as credible to common sense. And then he shows, convincingly, their inadequacies, and affirms O.S. That’s some mighty fine shootin’, Hoss. That’s how to fly a mind. That’s how to solve a solution. Inspector Doctor Professor Saint Aquinas.

    Too bad he wasn’t a Sargent, also.

  3. C-Marie

    Yes, Original Sin, is.

    But how is it that Eve, who sinned first before Adam sinned, for the Bible says that Adam was with her, and she gave him to eat, how is it that they who knew God, sinned at all, for they were provided with all that they needed and could use??

    How is it that they even could be, or could become dissatisfied, and want other than what God had given to them??

    God bless, C-Marie

  4. Joy

    Nobody is perfect, nor is DNA
    Nor is the design of man, not in the sense which Briggs, you intend the word perfect.

    C Marie,
    You contradict and undermine your own belief there.
    Kind of implying that Adam was already imperfect, which is nothing more than saying nobody’s perfect.
    Yet of course there’s another obvious problem with that, but only for those who are dogmatic.
    So despite the claims to the contrary, yet again, nothing to see and nothing to say about something which is allegorical in the bible. If it actually happened it STILL only acts as a lesson in obedience to God.
    All the phoney sciencey talk about DNA is jus that.
    All over the new testament there are references to the flesh mattering nothing. The spirit does not live in DNA

    Physical mechanism is encoded in DNA.
    So much effort to second guess God’s creation and make excuses for God.
    Where in fact all that needs to be said is that anybody with minimal intellect, can observe that nobody is perfect. The world is not perfect.
    Trying to find a reason why mankind is to blame for physical things is irrational. Mankind can be said to be to blame for one event which leads to another. Yet nobody has the mind to calculate that. So it’s enough to simply admit fault and stop trying to pretend that something which happened ages ago, literally is the reason for our own sins and imperfections. There is reference to that, too in the New Testament.

  5. C-Marie

    No, Adam and Eve were real and their misuse of the gifts God gave to them of free will, caused them and all of us much misery ever since. But Jesus broke the chains of sin and death and we each can choose to partake of salvation through Him. Blessed Lenten reflections on all that Jesus did for us, to all!!
    God bless, C-Marie

  6. Oldavid

    Good ole Tom! As usual he dissects everything into minutiae, presumably for the benefit or confounding of “difficult doctors” who seem to embrace the Original Sin as the ultimate expression of “liberty” in which the way to “be as gods” is to defy the purpose and nature of their very existence. It’s a notion that is horrible to everyone that realises that they are entirely contingent; who realise, like a child, that they are subject to many things that they cannot control or own.

    And there are other “liberated” types who demand that anything they cannot control or own must be destroyed as an impediment to their illuminated narcissism.

    I will contend that, as implied by Tom’s incisive observations, Original Sin is not a nasty imposition of God but is a generous, but onerous, grant from God; “orrite, you want to run the show, see how you go without gratuitous applications of actual Grace that were in the original Creation that “was good” and which you thought you would improve with usurping the very notions of good and true as products of your own convenience and pleasure “.

    No, Original Sin is not a nasty imposition of God, but it is a rejection of a proffered gift that may have been innate but now must be sought. Being “kicked out of the Garden of Eden” needn’t be a physical displacement; it could be (as I think it is) that the whole Earth lost some of its gratuitously given preternatural perfections.

  7. Oldavid

    Funny thing! I always wondered how long it might have been between when Eve took the “Forbidden Fruit” and when she convinced Adam that he should do likewise. It might have been years of subtle “encouragements”. Never underestimate the power of the woman (wife and mother) for good or ill.

    I think that God gave us the clue when He transposed the mother of woes into the mother of Redemption. As a spiritual deformity came to us through Eve, the mother of all humanity, so reparation comes through the woman offering Herself and Her Son to reclaim Good and True for those that would have it.

    There are plenty of “galahs”, “drongoes”, “eejuts” and more who claim that they are “rooly, rooly, clever just because they defy God.

    It’s a bit interesting because the only current “alternative” to the notion that the Universe was created by a Power with a purpose is the fancy that Nothing is relentlessly turning itself into Everything with no origin, no mechanism, no purpose.

    Horribly, these galahs don’t say that the miseries of institutionalised perversity are a result of the flaw in human nature but they claim that such are wonderful examples of “survival of the fittest” in which the meanest and nastiest dominate just because they can.

  8. Joy

    During the life and following the death of Jesus, all sorts of clerics were casting literal stones and carrying out abuses of all kinds in God’s name. Objecting to the freedom that the truth brings and that the word of Jesus brought to the world. Watch dogmatic Christians do the same thing again. Just as dogmatic applied anthropologists and historians of borders and maps. Nobody has a right to the earth.
    “The meek shall inherit the earth.”

    No, Oldavid God isn’t nasty, you’re right about that
    Yet you have a Sunday school interpretation of Adam and Eve that is little more than a threat to violence
    God isn’t like that.

  9. swordfishtrombone


    How is it that they even could be, or could become dissatisfied, and want other than what God had given to them?

    Good question. Why didn’t Aquinas include it in his list? Maybe because he only included questions he knew he could answer. As I see it, there are only two possibilities:

    1. God made A&E with an innate desire to sin. (In which case sin is God’s responsibility.)

    2. God made A&E with no innate desire to sin. (In which case, where did sin come from? If A&E were able to invent the desire to sin out of thin air, that ability must also be God’s responsibility. He can hardly say “I didn’t know they could do that!”)

  10. Mick Jagger Gatheres No Mosque

    Some think God’s creation of Adam was lacking perfection

    Other than observing the heretical hubris existing there really isn’t much to say.

    One willing to criticise God and Judge Him is one so far gone that only prayer and fasting can extricate them from their descent into Hell

    But people like that are not about to try and save their souls

  11. C-Marie

    Sin is choosing, in thought, word, deed, to not obey God. God gave the gift of free will to Adam and Eve and to each of us, so that we would not be robotic but that we human beings would choose to Love Him, and thus do His will. God is Love, complete, absolute, entire. Genuine love is freely given. God freely loves each of us. His love can be rejected. With God, Who is the Living God, He, in the fullness of Himself Who is Love, has revealed to us that which is required of is, in order to live in His Love, in and through, His Son Jesus Christ.

    Remember, He is God, the Living God, and therefore He gets to set and does set all of the boundaries within which we are to live, whether we like them or not, and even if they are difficult. God does hear our prayers, so do ask Him for help, with each day.

    The use of our free will comes in, when we choose to do His will, and when we choose to disobey Him. Disobedience is sin and we must repent. Repentance is a requirement as we travel onwards into truly loving God and truly receiving His Love and Him loving us, and thus fully desiring to know Him, love Him, serve Him and to always do that which pleases Him.

    God bless, C-Marie

  12. Uncle Mike

    The Original Sin was perpetrated by Adam when he ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It’s not about the fruit; it’s about the transformation from instinctive beast to rational thinking human who makes choices based on morality and justice.

    The Sin is the knowledge of sin and not-sin, right and wrong, just and unjust, good and evil. Contemplate that.

  13. C-Marie

    The Original Sin was disobedience to God’s command .. choosing to disobey God ,,, by which disobedience the knowledge of good an evil became known to humankind, though they already knew to not disobey God.
    See Eve’s statement in verse 3.1

    And there is more ….

    And he (the serpent) said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you, that you should not eat of every tree of paradise? 2And the woman answered him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise we do eat: 3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. Genesis 3: 1-3.

    4And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. 5For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil. 6And the woman saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold: and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave to her husband who did eat. 7And the eyes of them both were opened: and when they perceived themselves to be naked, they sewed together fig leaves, and made themselves aprons. Genesis 3: 4-7.

    And he (God) said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? 12And Adam said: The woman, whom thou gavest me to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat. 13And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this? And she answered: The serpent deceived me, and I did eat. Genesis 3: 11-13.

    God bless, C-Marie

  14. Joy

    Uncle Mike is correct, with knowledge comes power and responsibility. Information is power.
    “beasts” animals have no moral responsibility.
    The more you know, the more choices you have, the easier it is to be wrong, knowingly or otherwise.
    Think medical decision making and advances that or good or evil

    Yet, it still does not account for the evil and suffering that is not moral evil.
    Calculating and knowing which is which is impossible for the human mind. We know by the spirit, religious or not, what is right and what is not. God knows what you really know, (as far as I can tell)

  15. Barry

    God knew ahead of time it would turn out this way. Omniscience I guess. God’s creation, God’s fault I guess. I’m assuming God is male because Eve, (the bitch) spoiled everything. The rationale for major religions to suppress women.

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