What do theologians mean by the term "original sin"?

High Definition Video Standard Definition Video

(Right click this link to download video.)


The term original sin is used by theologians with two different meanings. The first is referring to Adam's first sin, so the actual original sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. More often we use it to mean original sin for the consequences flowing from that sin, so what's happened to human nature as the result of that first sin? And the reason why we have to ask that question is we find in our experience that humans, all humans, from birth onward have this propensity so that they instinctively seem to act in wicked ways; no one has to teach a child how to lie or be selfish, or they come from the womb ready and equipped to be that way. It begs the question, why? Are we made this way? We say, well, no. Between the creation and now there had been a fall, and the original sin has affected all of us, whether we see that simile that Adam was somehow the head of this in terms of being in the loins of Adam, whether technically he was our representative. But in some way there's some connection between what happened to Adam and Eve and the fact that all humans follow in their footsteps. And so, when we talk about original sin, we're talking usually about the consequences. What happened to us, to human nature, as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden?

Answer by Dr. John Hammett

Dr. John Hammett is the John Leadley Dagg Chair of Systematic Theology of at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.