"Saint Francis and the Sow"
Original sin, as you may recall, is the Christian doctrine
that Adam and Eve committed the original sin and we all share in their
fall from grace. We are all born in sin.
There are variations within the doctrine of original
sin. How complete was the fall? Various answers developed over
The Augustinian approach (formulated by St. Augustine
based on Paul's writings).
The Pelagian approach (formulated by the British
monk Pelagius) denied that the sin of Adam & Eve affects us.
Within this system, the fall is utterly complete, marring
the image of God in humans beyond the point where they can effectively
strive for their own salvation.
The Calvinistic doctrine of Total Depravity carries
the belief to its logical conclusion, with the resulting belief that we
are all vile worms without any goodness whatsoever.
Such a system results in problems of self-esteem and
in esteeming others. The tendency is to despise oneself and others.
The common humanity we share with others is something that must be destroyed,
The Semi-Pelagian approach (generally followed
in Catholic theology)
He admitted that Adam & Eve sinned, but denied that
their sin marred God's image in humanity. Essentially he denied original
Humans following the example of Christ could follow
God's will and achieve salvation.
The Fall is real and has real effects on us.
Nevertheless, the image of God within us, though tarnished,
has survived. We frequently need grace, but people can win the struggle
against sin & earn their salvation. They can even earn enough
to have some extra goodness left over to help those who need it.
Those with this extra goodness are called saints.
In all three systems, there is a need for salvation.
The nature of salvation changes from one system to another.
In Augustine, the fall is complete, so salvation must
by wholly by grace. Only then can we begin to follow Christ.
In Pelagius, Christ serves primarily as a model for
us to follow.
In the Semi-Pelagian system, Christ serves to renew
the divine that is still within us.
Notice the importance of metaphors. The
Puritans, when looking for things in nature to compare us to, always go
for something we find repulsive. They see nature as being as fallen
& ugly as humans.
St. Francis with his joyful Christianity recognized
the beauty and divinity that was latent in things which others regarded
as ugly. The pig was really beautiful when looked at through the
eyes of grace. We and the pig simply needed to be reminded of its
beauty. Its salvation lay, not in becoming something else, but rather
in accepting what it was.