Original sin is the name for the Christian belief that on the basis of the first man’s disobedience to God, all people are somehow born as sinners and in need of forgiveness. The doctrine of original sin corresponds to the biblical teaching about the way people are reconciled to God: in the same way that all people are seen as participating in Adam’s sin, those who trust in Christ are seen as obedient because of His obedience (see Romans 5:12ff).
The concept behind both of these truths is what is called “corporate solidarity.” It basically means that God sees us “together as a group” – that is to say that He looks at us not only as “persons,” but as “peoples.” The result of corporate solidarity is that we are related to others in such a way that we share in the consequences of their choices, for good or for bad.
I recently came across two great discussions on this topic. Kevin Bauder wrote an essay that describes and defends the two ways that people have described how corporate solidarity works, especially with reference to Adam’s sin. His essay, titled “Federal and Natural Headship,” is short but helpful in framing the discussion. From a different perspective, I recently listened to a podcast from Reformed Forum’s program “Christ the Center” in which they interviewed Chris Brauns about his recent book “Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices” (you can hear that here).
I found both of these conversations extremely helpful, despite the fact that they are coming from slightly different angles on the topic (Reformed Forum from the Covenantal/Presbyterian perspective, Kevin Bauder from the Baptist/Dispensationalist perspective). I think the best part of it was the encouragement that I received as I meditated on the fact that Christ has bound me to Himself through faith in Him, and that God loves me and accepts me because of the obedience of Christ. That is good news indeed! 🙂