Q & R: The Christian But syndrome

Here’s the Q:

I am a Christian…but I have a hard time stomaching the doctrine of babies born sinful. I believe that we are all born with the inclination to be sinful and that we will all one day give into that nature. But babies and young children seem sinless to me…like they are a metaphorical garden of Eden.
Having read four of your books, I have come to respect your scriptural interpretations. What are your thoughts on original sin?

Here’s the R:
There are several dimensions of the various versions of Christianity we inherited that often become problematic as we grow older and see their impacts in real life. The doctrine of original sin as taught by Augustine and preserved in Luther, Calvin, and most of Western Christianity is essential to a doctrinal system I call “the six-lined narrative” or the “soul-sort narrative.” I write about this at some length in A New Kind of Christianity and Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?, both of which I think you’ll find helpful.
The doctrine has good intentions and has a lot of truth to it, but more and more adults start to see problems with it – in their personal psychology, in making sense of the biblical text, and in its historical and social impacts. As a result, they find themselves identifying just as you did … I am a Christian … but. (A friend of mine says there are more and more Christians with big buts.)
I don’t recommend keeping the old narrative and simply dropping or modifying the doctrine of original sin. Rather, I recommend we look at the larger narrative question … and try to conceive of the Christian faith in wider and deeper (and, I believe, more true-to-Scripture) narrative terms.
Your question also opens up the question of what sin is … and what it would mean to be born with an inclination to be sinful. All these questions must be asked and I think they will, in the long run, lead us to a greater appreciation of the Bible, the gospel, and Jesus.
By the way, my upcoming book, We Make the Road by Walking, offers an overview of the whole Bible and an orientation to a fresh vision of Christian faith … apart from the old categories that cause many of us to have “big buts.” It will be available on June 10. I especially think you’ll find the reading of Genesis presented there to be helpful – and to replace your “but” with a “wow!”