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Hamartiology (Greek: ἁμαρτία, hamartia, "missing the mark," "sin," + -λογια, -logia) is the branch of theology which studies sin.1 Substantial branches of hamartiological understanding subscribe to the doctrine of original sin,citation needed which the Apostle Paul is claimed to have espoused in Romans 5:12-19 and which was popularized in the West and developed into a notion of "hereditary guilt" by Augustine of Hippo. The North African bishop taught that God holds all the descendants of Adam and Eve accountable for Adam's sin of rebellion, and as such all people deserve God's wrath and condemnation apart from any actual sins they personally commit.2
In contradistinction, a view sometimes ascribed to Pelagius states that humans enter life as moral tabula rasae and responsible for their own moral nature.citation needed The Fall that occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, according to Pelagianism, affected humankind only minimally as it established a negative moral precedent. Few contemporary theologians (especially thinkers in Augustinian traditions) and no orthodox theologians, however, continue to hold this hamartiological viewpoint.citation needed
A third branch of thinking takes an intermediate position, asserting that after the Fall human beings are naturally impacted by the sin of Adam such that they have inborn tendencies to rebel against God (which by personal choice all accountable humans, except Jesus, will choose or have chosen to indulge). This is the hamartiological position of the Eastern Christian churches, often called ancestral sin as opposed to original sin, but it is sometimes viewed as Semipelagian in the West.
How a Christian believes humanity is impacted by either a literal or metaphorical "Fall" typically forms the foundation for their views on related theological concepts such as salvation, justification, and sanctification.citation needed
- ^ "hamartiology." Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon. Dictionary.com, LLC. 11 Jun. 2012. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hamartiology>
- ^ Bavink, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 3. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004) Pages 75-125 detail the historical development of Hamartiology, including Pelagius's position and the mediating positions)