Hamartiology (Greek: αμαρτια, "hamartia", "missing the mark," "sin," + λογια, "logia", "sayings" or "discourse") is the branch of Christian theology, more specifically, systematic theology, which is the study of sin with a view to articulating a doctrine of it.

Substantial branches of hamartiological understanding subscribe to the doctrine of original sin, which was taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:12-19 and popularized by Saint Augustine. He taught that all the descendants of Adam and Eve are guilty of Adam's sin without their own personal choice [ Bavink, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 3. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan 2004. Pages 75-125 detail the historical development of Hamartiology, including Pelagius's position and the mediating positions)]

In contrast, Pelagius argued that humans enter life as essentially tabulae rasae. The Fall that occurred when Adam and Eve disobeyed God was held by his group to have affected humankind only minimally. But few theologians continue to hold this hamartiological viewpoint.

A third branch of thinking takes an intermediate position, arguing that after the Fall of Adam and Eve, humans are born impacted by sin such that they have very decided tendencies toward sinning (which by personal choice all accountable humans but Jesus soon choose to indulge).

The degree to which a Christian believes humanity is impacted by either a literal or metaphorical "Fall" determines their understanding of related theological concepts like salvation, justification, and sanctification.


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