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“Ask a Priest: In Light of Original Sin, Is Human Life a Mistake?”
Q: Given the doctrine of original sin, would it not naturally follow that procreation and human life itself is an error, a mistake? It’s hard for me to reconcile the idea of being born in such a state and being subject thus to the vices and errors of this world and also saying, “God is our Father, we are his children.” Even Christ himself states that very few people find the narrow path, and sinners are condemned to hellfire. Wouldn’t it follow from these two points that procreation and life are almost a tragedy? Would it be better to not be born? I can’t help reach this conclusion, based also the experience of the world full of hate and suffering. For example, what purpose was served when my relative was born and then died shortly after? What did God have in mind for this child? Do our individual lives really have any meaning? – K.B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: You raise provocative questions. Others have raised similar questions in the past, including the Manichaeans and Albigensians. The Church rigorously opposed the ideas of both groups.
A full answer to your questions could fill a book. But let’s attempt a short answer.
Everything that God creates is good. God created the universe, in fact, for our benefit. All the wonder and beauty of the physical universe is meant for us, to serve us and to give us a glimpse of God’s goodness.
Now, recall his first command to humans: “Be fertile and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). God wanted lots of people in the world, in part to enjoy the universe he created.
The creation of a new soul is an ontological good. A soul is good in and of itself, by its very existence. And God didn’t rescind his first command just because of the sin of Adam and Eve.
God’s plan to fill the world with people is still active. So, it is good that married couples continue to cooperate with Our Lord to bring new life into the world.
And new human life is not meant just for this world. It lasts forever.
To think that the very act of living somehow reflects an existential injustice is an idea based on a view that life is just temporal and fleeting. Rather, eternity has to be taken into account.
While the death of a baptized infant might seem meaningless, it’s good to remember that that child now lives forever with God in perfect happiness.
That we contract original sin from our first parents doesn’t take away the fact that our very being is still good. Though the sin of Adam and Eve lost a patrimony that was supposed to be communicated to future generations, Christ (the New Adam) brought a new patrimony that offers salvation to those who believe and follow him.
Yes, we are flawed, but baptism can take away original sin, and further graces (through the other sacraments, for instance) can absolve us from sin and lead us to growth in holiness.
Now, it’s true that many people don’t seem to live in accord with God’s plans, and this leads to lots of evil. But the fault here is with people, not with God. God doesn’t make junk.
What he does make are people with free will. If they misuse their free will, that is unfortunate. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that God’s creating them is still a good in and of itself.
Moreover, even a lost soul says something good about God. It shows that God respected the free will he gave to a person and that he didn’t revoke that gift just because the person chose poorly.
Our time in this world is the time we have to become saints. The shortness of earthly life helps to remind us how precious it is and how we need to make the most of it for God’s glory.
Do our individual lives make a difference? Of course. We all are beloved children of God, called to give him glory and to be with him forever in heaven.
If ever we wonder whether we are “worth it,” we only have to look at a crucifix to see what Jesus was willing to do for us and our redemption. For we all matter to Christ.
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