Ethics of Queer Holiness Final Question 1

Explain Augustine’s original sin and human will in relation to his understanding of human sexuality, specifically human desire. (Read and utilize Pagels’ Chapters 5 and 6) (10 points)

“Augustine declares, on the contrary, that the whole human race inherited from Adam a nature irreversibly damaged by sin. ‘For we all were in that one man, since all of us were that one man who fell into sin through the woman who was made from him.’”[1] Augustine based the sum of his understanding of original sin from a reading of Romans 5:12 from the Latin and not understanding the meaning of the original Greek. The original said “Through one man [or “because of one man”] sin entered the world, and through sin, death; and thus death came upon all men, in that all sinned.”[2] Pagels wrote, “Augustine insisted that it meant that ‘death came upon all men, in whom all sinned’ – that the sin of that ‘one man,’ Adam, brought upon humanity not only universal death, but also universal, and inevitable, sin.”[3]

Augustine believed that because Adam and Eve committed the sin of wanting to hold power they had cursed all of humanity. The punishment to be fruitful and multiply would have happened another way than how it did with sperm. Thus, original sin is transmitted through man’s sperm. This is also why Jesus did not have original sin and was sinless because he was not born of man’s sperm, according to Augustine. Given this way of thinking human sexual desire is a power that keeps us from giving the attention we need to to God. Human desires are chains that bind us to our own will and not the will of God. Sexual relations should only be used for procreation and any other relations are sinful and need to be held at bay. When we give into the desires, we are not doing what God has called us to do and are giving into a perverse will that draws us from God. This perverse nature causes pain and Augustine would say that we are not to blame for that pain because it all goes back to Adam and the original sin that causes all issues for humanity. Pagels wrote, “For what Augustine says, in the simplest terms, is this: human beings cannot be trusted to govern themselves, because our very nature – indeed, all of nature – has become corrupt as the result of Adam’s sin.”[4] Augustine spoke of desire and sexual libido as an uncontrollable thing that keeps us from the will of God. Even the experience of arousal is a sin according to Augustine. We need to live pure lives that are devoid of any desire except for God. This understanding of sexual desire and sexuality has been a plague on the church and society because Augustine’s writings led the church to adopt his view of sexuality. Sexual desire is a part of our human experience that can lead us to a deeper faith and understanding of the divine.

[1] Pagels, Elaine. Adam, Eve, and The Serpent. p. 109.

[2] Ibid p. 109

[3] Ibid p. 109

[4] Ibid p. 145

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