From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Original Sin
Therefore, we have correctly expressed both defects in our description of original sin: not being able to believe, fear, and love God, and concupiscence, which seeks carnal things contrary to God's Word. That is, it seeks not only the pleasure of the body, but also carnal wisdom and righteousness, trusting in these as good things while despising God.
Not only the ancient theologians, but also the more recent ones—at least the wiser ones among them— teach the same thing about original sin, namely, these defects that I have listed and concupiscence. Aquinas writes, “Original sin is the loss of original righteousness, and with this an inordinate disposition of the parts of the soul. Therefore it is not pure loss, but a corrupted temperament.” Bonaventure says: “When the question is asked, 'What is original sin?' the correct answer is that it is unchecked concupiscence. The correct answer is also that it is want of the necessary righteousness. In either of these answers, the other is included.” Hugo has the same opinion, saying that original sin is ignorance in the mind and concupiscence in the flesh. He indicates that when we are born, we have an ignorance of God—unbelief, distrust, contempt, and hatred of God. When he mentions ignorance, he includes all of these.
Pulling It Together: Original sin is the inability to seek God and his righteousness. What we are left with is the inordinate ability to seek after the things of the flesh. We are naturally anxious about having the basic things of life, and having them in plenty. God wants these things for us too, and he provides them. But because it is in our nature to not trust God, we scramble after these lesser things. Instead of trusting God for our basic needs, they become excessive desires that rule our time and energies.
Being so ruled, we believe ourselves to be the providers of all good things. Why should our powers be relegated to food and drink, to clothing and shelter? Surely, the sin of origin whispers, you can also create great wisdom to guide your lives, and a moral code that is as good or even better than having a god. This is nothing more than the love of self and the hatred of God. Our depravity does more than ask, “Who needs God?” We insist.
Yet, God comes to us when we are in this state. While we were buried in our self-centered sin, Jesus died for us (Rom 5:8). The Spirit of Christ speaks to this condition, showing us that we are dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph 2:1). He calls us beyond the deadly ignorance that has fooled us into believing that we provide for our lives. He demands that we live under God's rule and righteousness, trusting him instead of ourselves, not only for these lesser things but also for righteousness and salvation.
Prayer: Help me to trust in you, Good Shepherd, to guide me to all good and needful things. Amen.
The Wise & The Foolish is a nine-session Bible study that focuses on Jesus' "people parables" — or what might be described as discipleship parables. These are the character stories that focus on the nature of discipleship and what it means to be a wise and faithful follower of Jesus.