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Modern biblical interpretation and evolutionary sci-

ence clearly pose challenges to the Catholic doctrine of

original sin. But the approach of Aquinas in addressing

difficulties of this kind, in contrast to much secular think-

ing, teaches us to take our methodological orientation from

the criterion of intelligibility rather than the criterion of

reasonableness. It is a theology that arises from faith seek-

ing understanding. It does not put God to the test, as if he

could be called to the bar of human reason. Rather, it is a

theological approach that acknowledges the limits of human

rationality and the unlimited character of the intelligibility

of divine truth and the divine plan in which it is manifested.

It is in this light that Aquinas offers his explanation

of our membership in the human race as a way of un-

derstanding, in line with Catholic doctrine, how original

sin could be said to have been transmitted—how sin and

death entered the world through one man—and how, “as

sin reigned unto death, so also grace might reign by justice

unto life everlasting, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”While

the criterion of reasonableness allows only what makes

sense to us, the criterion of intelligibility draws the human

mind into the fullness of divine truth.

Divine explanation for the existence of moral evil:

original sin as revealed

G.K. Chesterton famously remarked: “Certain new

theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of

Christian theology which can really be proved.”



embedded in a complex argument, this often-quoted remark

is one that people find appealing. The evidence for original

sin is all around us, they seem to say, in the moral evil we

can “see in the street.”



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