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IRELAND: Anglican Priest Questions Doctrine of Original Sin, Blames God over Eve

IRELAND: Anglican Priest Questions Doctrine of Original Sin and Blames God for Eve's Actions

By David W. Virtue
March 5, 2014

In the column Rehabilitating Eve in the March 7 issue of the Church of Ireland Gazette, an Irish Anglican priest questioned the doctrine of Original Sin and actually blames God and commends Eve for her actions.

Referring to Original Sin as "one of the biggest elephants in the room in Christian and especially Protestant theology," the Rev. Canon Stephen Neill describes the doctrine as a "distortion of the divine human relationship and, indeed, the relationship between humanity and the rest of Creation." He described people who believe in it as being "defensive" and "elevating it to the level of Scripture rather than interpretation."

Citing Stephen Burke's A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, Neill said that the implications of this doctrine for unbaptized children was "fascinating" and blamed people for trying to keep their religious systems intact...even when the sacred texts are silent.

On the subject of God's handiwork in creation which God called "good", Neill asked, "Is God's Creation so terribly marred by the sin of Adam and Eve that what was fundamentally good only a couple of chapters earlier has become fundamentally flawed?"

Neill rips God saying, "Is our God really so petty and unjust that he would tell Adam and Eve that what was fundamentally good only a couple of chapters earlier has become fundamentally flawed? Is our God really so petty and unjust that he would tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil and then leave it in temptation's reach just so that he could punish them when they inevitably transgressed, having not previously had the knowledge of good and evil?"

Neill went on to write, "I find I cannot reconcile that with the understanding of a God who went to the cross for us in and through his Son and I actually don't think that a reasonable and orthodox understanding of Jesus' death and resurrection depends on a model of Original Sin which portrays a God who punishes his creatures for falling short of perfection.

"Perhaps we should celebrate Eve for her bravery rather than condemn her for leading Adam astray. The alternative, if Eve hadn't taken the apple is a life where you will spend all your days in idle contentment...you will never cry and you will never laugh. You will never long for something you don't have, and you will never receive something you have always wanted. Now does that sound like Hell. Maybe it is time to revisit Original Sin?"


Original Sin is a benchmark doctrine of the Christian Faith. The Apostle Paul writing in Rom 5: 12-21 compares and contrasts the work of Adam with Jesus Christ so that we understand that what Jesus did was far greater than what Adam did. In these first three verses, Paul explains the result or consequence of Adam's sin. Serving as our representative, Adam sinned, thus his sin was applied to every person who has ever lived or will ever live. Paul summarizes and explains this thought in 5:12: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned."

In the 2nd century Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, first alluded to the concept of original sin in his controversy with certain dualist Gnostics. Other church fathers such as Augustine also developed the doctrine, seeing it as based on the New Testament teaching of Paul the Apostle (Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22) and the Old Testament verse of Psalm 51:5] Tertullian, Cyprian, and Ambrose considered that humanity shares in Adam's sin, transmitted by human generation.

Neill invites us to completely ignore or rewrite history. It can't be done.

As far as the issue of unbaptized children is concerned, the majority view within Anglicanism today is mostly universalism. From the Reformed Anglican perspective, most believe in the salvation of all who die in infancy. While it may not be possible to gauge the age of accountability, union with Christ is eminently possible without baptism.

I think it is right to conjecture that there are many whose faith is known only to God and whose confession is blighted by misunderstanding, hesitancy, and various other problems that hinder assurance and confidence. In the strictest sense we would say that all elect children are saved, but most Christians are prepared to believe that all incapable of weighing the implications of the gospel for themselves are indeed elect.

As for blaming God for Eve's actions as Neill suggests, this makes God a manipulative deity and denies the reality of freewill inherent in any relationship between God and Man. To worship God is an invitation. Eve chose to violate that relationship and draw Adam into it. God cannot be blamed as Neill would have us believe. The notion that our first parents would have spent their time in "idle contentment" in the Garden is nonsense. It is said "Adam walked and talked with God" and both worshipped him as all Christians will one day do in eternity worshipping the Lamb around the throne. Is there anything more noble or higher than worshipping the creator of the universe?

The completely incoherent, myopic and theologically bowdlerized views portrayed by the Rev. Neill only continue the observed doctrinal decline and church attendance in the Church of Ireland.

It is important to note that Stephen Neill's father was the past Archbishop of Dublin. His grandfather was also a Church of Ireland clergyman, an evangelical in the south of Ireland, a rare thing. Neill is a leading pro-gay advocate, is on the Standing Committee, and has a regular article in the Gazette. A source told VOL that the Gazette is usually liberal and very influenced by the emergent church folk. Neill's claim to fame is that President Obama's long lost "Irish" relative came from his parish that Obama actually visited during his first visit to Ireland.

A diocesan check revealed that the Rev. Canon Stephen Neill is the incumbent, Modreeny Rectory Cloughjordan, Co Tipperary.


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