Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Topic Proposal

Gianna Volonte

Religion 390

Putting God on Trial: The Motivation Behind Original Sin and Forgiveness

Having been raised in a secular household, I have always found it curious how the name God or Allah was able to strike such respect, love, and fear. Of course, I had a basic understanding of why my friends, classmates, and mentors felt this way but I never received a valid answer to the question: Why is God perfect?  The answer was always: Because he’s God. I could never accept that answer and, up until this point, I was not sure where to start looking. This class, and in turn this paper, has given me an avenue on which to search for an answer and find conclusions. That being said, this paper will challenge the perfection of God through exploring such questions as: why humanity is inherently sinful, why did God/Allah create humans with the ability to sin, and why did he let sin continue after it proved to be so horrendous?  There are simple and generic answers present in Bible- Genesis 2-3- and the Qur’an- Sura 20- but what I aim to find is the fundamental reason behind sin. Through the creation of man, the relationship we have with sin and forgiveness, and the role of Satan/Iblis I will attempt to find answers to these complex questions.

Additionally, in answering the above questions I will have to explore more specific questions of where did sin truly originate? Is God/Allah sinful? Was the Fall of Humanity a planned event? What was the purpose of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil or the Tree of Eternity?  And does God need to be forgiven? In answering these questions I will further attempt to explain why humanity has been treated the way it has. Beginning with punishment of the Fall, to the exile of the Jews to Egypt and ending with the genocide and cultural destruction of modern society.  

I will begin by analyzing the creation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, specifically looking at verses in both the Bible and the Quran that discuss the exact moment of Adam’s creation, the role of the serpent/Satan/Iblis, and the dialogue of God/Allah. I will then draw in texts, such as Charles Griswold’s Forgiveness Ancient and Modern , that contribute to the larger narrative of God’s relationship to sin and forgiveness and how that relationship influences humanity.  Most of the time and space dedicated to this portion of the paper will be spent analyzing God’s character through multiple lenses. In doing so, I will provide multiple avenues for interpreting God as something other than a perfect being.  

Throughout the paper, I will be relying on the Bible and the Qur’an as my primary sources and for secondary sources I will be drawing from such texts as Charles Griswold’s Forgiveness Ancient and Modern, Lucinda Mosher and David Marshall’s Sin, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation, Chawkat Moucarry’s The Search for Forgiveness, Joseph Fitzpatrick’s Original Sin and Original Sinfulness, and many others that I will acquire throughout the semester. 

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