LOOK: Graduate of Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies: Duterte’s intellectual knowledge on the matter is impressive!

Read his Facebook post below:

This note is meant for some friends who have been seeking my personal opinion regarding the Philippine president’s recent bout with Christendom when he made comments on: (1) the supposed absurdity of the Christian teaching about “original sin” imputed on babies, (2) the allegedly “stupid” God who decreed the Fall of humanity, and (3) his caution for Filipinos to instead believe in a “better” God.

Within theological circles, such deviant views about whether humans inherited Adam’s sin or not are nothing new, they have been around for centuries. It would seem that the president is aware of some philosophical paradigms challenging the traditional Augustinian position on original sin. If this is true, then President Duterte’s intellectual savviness on the matter is impressive. The Filipino leader may have unwittingly sided with a legitimate theological minority position. However, if his statements are mere low blow punches against perceived hypocrisy of the Catholic Church, then there isn’t much theological value to this recent brouhaha.

It is also possible that as a Filipino Catholic, President Duterte seems to welcome a more progressive stream of Catholicism that echoes the polemic of the postmodern milieu which prefers “a-loving-God-more-than-an-angry-God” perspective on theology. I guess this is where the invitation to “believe in a better God” language comes from. This actually reminds me of a prayer by the theologian Meister Eckhart who said, “God rid me of God” (this is a recent move in contemporary theology to dismantle all man-made religious trappings we have supposedly imposed on our distorted version of God, that have veered us away from the true God). This distorted brand of deity is probably what the president seems to tag as the “stupid” god.

Nevertheless, this incident brought to mind some theological writings (relevant to Christian teachings about Adam’s sin and the effects of the Fall) that may help bring some light to this controversial issue:

“Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither?: Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters” by Hoffmeier, Wenham, and Sparks

“Why the Church Needs Multiple Theories of Original Sin: (Symbolism vs. Literalism)” by Haarsma
“The Quest for the Historical Adam: Genesis, Hermeneutics, and Human Origins” by VanDoodewaard

“Four Views on the Historical Adam” by Lamoureux, Walton, Collins, Barrick, Boyd, and Ryken
“Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place” by Shroyer

As a Christian theologian, I cannot help but weigh in on this on-going debate about the Genesis account of the Fall. In traditional Christian theology, the doctrine of original sin essentially states that (1) humankind is guilty for the sin of their first parents and (2) humankind inherited a corrupted nature.

It is important to note, that throughout church history there are a variety of theological views within Christendom regarding this issue.

As there are different views on the doctrine of the atonement (e.g. recapitulation theory by Irenaeus, ransom theory by Origen, satisfaction theory by Anselm, governmental theory by Grotius, victory theory by Aulen, etc.), there are also multiple views on the doctrine of original sin (e.g. natural headship (realistic) theory by Augustine, federal theory by Cocceius, mediate imputation theory by Placeus, divine protection theory by Cassian, etc.).

While there are believers who condemn such diversity as breeding ground for errors, others celebrate such diversity as a healthy environment for discovering truth. Moreover, such multiplicity of perspectives on the belief about inherited sin were fueled by theological debates about whether babies are born innocent or depraved, or whether it is fair to assume that present humans are guilty of sins (by past humans) that they did not commit.

For instance, some Christian theologians believe that, although the whole world and human nature were “corrupted” and “damaged” by Adam’s sin, every human infant born in this world are born “morally neutral”, i.e. we do not inherit Adam’s original sin. While every person has a predisposition toward sin, we are responsible for and are judged guilty because of our own sins and not because of Adam’s sins. Such proposal is one of the many attempts to reconcile God’s love with God’s justice. This minority view is one of the many voices that can be heard within a diverse Christianity.

In my opinion, such theological diversity is a great hallmark of a thriving, flourishing intellectual movement. When Christianity becomes a safe intellectual environment for dialogue, debates, disagreements, doubts, discourses, and discoveries, we learn to listen to one another. Instead of condemning each other, we are better off connecting incomplete fragments of truth to see an imperfect but better picture of reality.

As a Christian philosopher, I believe that we acquire wisdom when we listen to those who disagree with us. A conversational and collaborative attitude to gaining truth is an inescapable path to wisdom. Hence, while I am more likely to support the historical Christian view of original sin and human depravity, I am open to listen to other voices that suggest other facets of truth that I may have missed.

Let me summarize my thoughts.

Many Christians frown upon unorthodox theological views as a knee jerk reaction to anything that seem to threaten our long-held cherished beliefs. While this dismissive and condemning attitude against perceived heresies is understandable, it would be much better when Christians respond with an attitude of humility that intends to learn from others. Hence, as one of my friends always say, “we should produce more light than heat”. In my opinion, critics serve us well when we allow their remarks to help us re-think, revise, evaluate, strengthen, clarify, or improve our beliefs.

While I respectfully do not agree with the Filipino president’s recent deviation from mainstream Christian theology (i.e. his criticism of the doctrine of original sin), the view he espoused represents a long line of intellectual “heterodoxies” that helped shape Christianity as we know it. Moreover, while many Christians see President Duterte’s remarks as blasphemous deserving divine punishment, I see this as an opportunity for a “dialectical” platform to hear other voices (no matter how deviant they may sound) that can potentially enrich Christian theology.

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Source: Michael R. Cariño

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