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Most Quakers do not believe in original sin. In this, the Jesus Christians differ. However, they do accept that the doctrine has been abused and used as an excuse by many.

"The devil made me do it." So goes a popular cop-out for children caught in some sort of mischief. But a more sophisticated excuse for misbehaviour is to blame our parents or our society.

It's true that the home environment can restrict or expand the capacity for children to develop. Abusive parents tend to breed abusive parents. But this is only a tendency and not a law engraved in stone. Certainly every child at least has the capacity to make some changes to the patterns of their parents. These changes can either be for the better or for the worse.

It would be far better for children who feel they have received defective parenting to aim at improving on at least some of the mistakes made by their parents. (Of course even their 'improvements' could end up being interpreted as errors by others.)

The Old Testament talks of the "sins of the fathers being visited upon their children" for several generations. (Exodus 20:5) And Paul talks of Adam's sin being passed on to the entire human race. (Romans 5:12-14) The word Adam simply means "human" and we often call this inheritance from Adam our "human nature". One of the tendencies of human nature is to blame someone else for our own sinfulness. Even Adam tried to blame it on Eve. (Genesis 3:12)

Paul's theory blamed Adam; but, fortunately, Paul's theory did not stop there. He spoke of a second Adam (or human) called Jesus, whose obedience enables us all to be freed from the first Adam's nature (1 Corinthians 15:45-49).

However, this freedom only comes when we recognise Jesus as an Adam, or human being (See 1 John 4:2.) -- something many theologians overlook. If Jesus was fully human, then he has a right to ask us to do what he did. Most people prefer to deny Jesus' humanity, and say he was so superhuman that it is foolish for us to even try to imitate or obey him. While we may agree that absolute perfection is impossible, we do believe that we can go a long way toward improving on the first "Adam" if we will take our second "Adam" a little more seriously.

Similarly, we do not need to blame our immediate parents for our immediate faults. All we need to do is to submit to our heavenly Father's will, as revealed through our big Brother, Jesus. Self-pity and bitterness over the hopelessness of a home environment will eventually fill the world with Charles Mansons. But obedience to Jesus (and only obedience to Jesus) will result in a genuine spiritual revolution that will change the world.

(See also The Fates.)

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