Why was original sin passed down to us?

We know that we’re born with original sin, but why? If we didn’t commit that first sin, why are we born with the effects of Adam and Eve’s decision? Ten-year-old Jimmy called to ask why original sin was passed on to us. Msgr. Stuart Swetland, host of Go Ask Your FatherTM, responded:

“What was passed down was human nature as it really was at that time. I think at ten you can understand this? When Adam and Eve were in the non-fallen state before they sinned, and the fancy word for that is the preternatural state, they had all the spiritual gifts that God wanted us to have. They had harmony: they were in right relationship between themselves and God, they had harmony between themselves—Adam and Eve had perfect harmony as human persons, as the original couple—and they had harmony with all of creation as well. And they also had harmony with themselves; their intellect, their reasoning, their mind, their will, their emotions, and their desires all lined up in a harmonious way that right now we only can think about. We don’t experience that ourselves normally, and so we can only stand in awe of it.

“But when they chose to sin—because the consequences of sin are so, so serious—when they chose to sin, when they chose to reject God and God’s offer of friendship, when they chose not to love God but to love themselves more than God and to doubt God’s goodness, they lost that harmony with God. Not because God changed but because they changed; they chose to be different. And that choice disrupted everything. It’s like … those building blocks you might have played with when you were younger—you take out one building block and the whole structure can fall down. Well sure enough, this one factor, harmony with God, once they rejected that the whole thing came tumbling down so their very nature was changed. They were less than they used to be—sin makes us less. And so they no longer had harmony with God, they no longer had harmony with each other … with the earth and … internal to themselves. And that is the result of the fall.

“That nature that Adam and Eve had was the only human nature there was to hand on, a fallen human nature. So the effects of the fall are handed down to us and we receive human nature as it is. And human nature now is not in its natural state in harmony with God, that’s why it needs to be placed in harmony with God by grace by God’s help, and that’s done through Baptism. So we inherit the one human nature there is that’s a fallen nature.”

Listen to the full conversation, including Jimmy’s follow-up question, here: