Are men born sinners? Our answer to this question will affect our attitude toward sin and will ultimately affect our conduct as well. The Christian's views on sin cannot help but affect his conduct. If the Christian believes he is born with a sinful nature and sins unavoidably because of that nature, he is not likely to view his sins as the serious crimes they really are. If he believes he has a nature that makes holiness impossible, he is not likely to be concerned about sinning against God. If he believes that God is his Creator and that he has been created with a sinful nature, this must affect his attitude toward God and the justice of God's dealings with man.
This article will show that the Scripture doctrine of sin is this: that God has created man upright, in the image and likeness of God, with the law of God written in their hearts, with a conscience, with the dazzling light of a rational nature, and with all the faculties and powers of free moral agency. But men have corrupted themselves. They have sinned against their God-given nature, and have come short of the glory of God.
The Scripture doctrine of sin
The Scripture teaches that all men originate their own moral depravity (Genesis 6:12; 8:21, Deuteronomy 32:5, Psalm 14:1-3, Romans 23, Ecclesiastes 7:29). The Scripture teaches that men sin and corrupt themselves. In fact, early in mankind's history upon the earth, men had become so corrupt that God sent a flood to destroy them.
"I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth." Genesis 6:7.
Observe that God was angry with "man whom I have created." Certainly he was not angry with them because of the nature with which he had created them. No, it was because they had corrupted themselves that God was angry with them.
"The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth." Genesis 6:11, 12.
To "corrupt" means to make morally depraved. It means to pervert what is good and upright. It means to make unclean what was once clean. It means to spoil what was once good and unspoiled. The word corrupt always implies a former state that was unspoiled, clean, good, or upright. It is never used to speak of the original created nature of man. It speaks of what man has become because of spoiling or perverting the nature with which he was created.
Moral beings have never needed a sinful nature to make them sin. Churches teach the first sin ever committed was committed by the devil. He did not have a sinful nature to make him sin. Churches also teach that a third of the angels fell from heaven. They did not have a sinful nature to make them sin. And scripture says both Adam and Eve sinned. They did not have a sinful nature to make them sin. Then, why should it be thought necessary for men to be born with a sinful nature to account for their sins? The Scripture does not teach that men must have a sinful nature in order to sin; it teaches that men sin in spite of a good nature:
"Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (Ecclesiastes 7:29).
The above Scripture is very clear. God has created men upright, but they have sinned in spite of an upright nature. This truth is taught directly, and by implication, throughout the whole Scripture.
The following verses also show that we are created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore with a good and upright nature (Genesis 1:26,27; 9:6, I Corinthians 11:7, James 3:9).
God has created man upright and without sin. He has created man in his own image and likeness with sensibility, intellect, reason, conscience, and free will. Man has all the faculties and powers of moral agency. He knows right from wrong. The law of God is written in his heart. He is free and knows himself to be free and able to obey the law of God. His conscience approves his right conduct and condemns his wrong conduct.
All men, everywhere, have these same moral faculties and powers. A heathen man may be ignorant and primitive, but the law of God is written in his heart. His conscience approves his right conduct and condemns his wrong conduct. He has the same moral consciousness of a standard of right and wrong as any man who knows the Scripture (Romans 2: 14-15).
All men, everywhere, know themselves to be free and responsible moral agents. They know they are accountable for their deeds. They know this because the moral nature with which God has created them testifies to them of these truths. Some men deny this and claim that man's conscience, his knowledge of right and wrong, and his ideas of responsibility and accountability, are not really innate revelations of his nature, but are merely learned and changeable convictions, acquired through reading the Scripture, through religious instruction, or through the influence of society and environment.
But in spite of what some men say, the fact remains that all men know intuitively that they are responsible and accountable for their actions. An absolute standard of right and wrong is revealed and apparent to all men. Man's moral agency and his responsibility and accountability are so apparent that he cannot rationally deny them. He can no more deny them than he can deny his existence. This can be shown from the following:
The Scripture represents man to be just exactly what he knows himself to be, and that is why men cannot escape the conviction that the Scripture is the Word of God; it represents him as being a responsible, rational moral being, with moral faculties and powers which enable him to know and do right, but who has sinned against the light of his nature. It represents him as having resisted his God-given reason, trampled on conscience, and abused free moral agency. In short, it represents man as being under God's just wrath, not for being born with a sinful nature, but for resisting, abusing, and perverting the faculties and powers with which God created him. It should be forever remembered that obedience to God's law is in accord with the moral nature that God has given us, but that disobedience to God's law resists and abuses the moral nature that God has given us.
- Let someone come up to you, and without any provocation, hit you in the face. Would you need to be acquainted with the Scripture, or would you need to know that society frowned on such conduct, to know that you had been wronged? What man ever needed the Scripture or religious instruction to know that it is wrong for someone to forcefully take what is not his? Do you need the Scripture to know that it is wrong for a person to insult you, lie about you, or abuse you in some way? Could any society convince itself through education that it is really right to hate, lie, steal, and murder or that it is wrong to love and do good to its neighbor? To maintain that hatred, murder, lying, stealing, and every other kind of meanness and injustice are wrong only in the eyes of those who have been taught to frown upon them is sublimely ridiculous.
- This is because right and wrong are first truths of reason, self-evident truths derived or given to us from our nature and relations as moral beings, and not from the philosophy, teaching, or arbitrary will of society. Right and wrong do not even derive from the arbitrary will of God. For if the arbitrary will of God made law right, then God could command any law to be right. He could command: "Thou shalt hate, thou shalt lie, thou shalt steal, thou shalt covet thy neighbor's wife, thou shalt be selfish, and thou shalt seek the misery and unhappiness of thy neighbor." And upon the supposition that God's arbitrary will made law right, it would be right to lie, steal, hate, and do everything possible to make mankind miserable and unhappy. But God's law is declaratory. He has declared to us the law of our nature. He has declared to us the same law of right and wrong that is founded in and revealed to us by our nature, necessities, and relations as moral beings.
- Jesus recognized that there is a common standard of right and wrong revealed to all men when he gave the Golden Rule: "And whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matthew 7:12). If men did not have a common knowledge of right and wrong revealed to them in and by their nature, they could not obey the Golden Rule, because obedience to the Golden Rule depends upon a subjective knowledge, common to all men, of right conduct toward others.
- The claim that morality is only a changing thing, which is established in each time context by the society in existence, has missed the point. For although it is true that different societies accept or permit things that other societies do not permit, still, man's innate convictions of right and wrong remain the same. What a man or a society will permit and the convictions of conscience are two different things. For instance, a man may himself be a thief and a liar. But does that mean that he has no convictions against stealing or lying? If someone steals from him, will he claim that there is nothing wrong with stealing? What liar ever said, "I see nothing wrong with lying. I love and admire liars. In fact, I just love it when people lie to me." Or what murderer would ever say, "I see nothing wrong with murder; in fact, if someone attempted to murder me, I would put up no resistance at all."
- If there were no common standard of right and wrong revealed to man by his nature, we could have no human government. In fact, human government would be a mere imposition were it not for man's moral nature and would be ridiculous, as ridiculous as a moral government over animals. The very fact that men do have human government shows that men know themselves to be responsible moral agents. It shows that they have innate convictions of right and wrong, and that they have a conscious knowledge of responsibility and accountability.
- But the fact that human government is judged to be unjust, if it makes arbitrary law or imposes unjust penalty, shows that there is an ultimate standard of right and wrong, a law revealed in our nature which all men know and appeal to.
For instance, let a judge decide that he wants to sentence a convicted murderer to only one day in jail, and see if society does not rise up as one man to denounce the injustice of the sentence! But what does society appeal to in pronouncing the sentence unjust? Of course, it appeals to that self-evident standard of right and wrong which is revealed to all men in their moral nature. Or let us imagine that all the laws of our land are repealed overnight, and new laws are imposed; such as the following: "It is a felony, punishable by life imprisonment to do anything good for your neighbor. All citizens are required by law to seek the misery and hurt of their neighbor. Therefore, all citizens are required to lie, steal, kill, and in other ways abuse their neighbors and seek to deprive them of their rights. In keeping with this new law (which cannot violate any absolute standard of righteousness and justice, since there is no natural law of justice, but all of man's convictions of right and wrong are merely the result of education and environment, and so can be changed at will without infringing upon anyone's rights) all men who have been imprisoned for past crimes will now be set free. (For there is no such thing as a self-evident standard of criminal action, because our convictions of wrong-doing are wholly dependent upon environment and education, and so can be changed at will.) Therefore, any citizen who does right and who does not do wrong will be sentenced to life imprisonment, and those citizens who will devote their lives to being selfish and seeking the misery of others will have the favor of this government."
Now, this supposition is ludicrous. But it would not seem ludicrous at all were it not for the innate knowledge of right and wrong in all men which makes them see it as ludicrous. The very fact that it is so obviously ludicrous to everyone shows that everyone has the same innate knowledge of right and wrong.
- Language shows that all men have the same innate ideas of justice, right and wrong, and accountability. Words such as sin, wickedness, justice, injustice, right, wrong, good, evil, obligation, accountability, innocence, and guilt are just a few of the words which men use to express innate moral concepts that all men have. Man's language is a mirror of his rational moral nature.
- Novelists know that all men have the same standard of right and wrong revealed to them in their nature. They do not write different novels for the wicked than they do for the righteous. The reason is that both wicked men and good men have the same standard of right and wrong revealed to them in their nature. It is not necessary for a novelist to write two versions of his novel, one for good men and another for bad men. For to write a novel in which the hero is evil and unjust would offend the conscience of both wicked and good men. The hero of the novel is never described as a bad man. He is always described as a good man, a just man, and a courageous man. And when the reader (even the reader who is wicked and unjust) sees that he is just and fights against evil, he will identify with him and experience satisfaction when he finally triumphs. Wicked men do not identify with the villain because of their irresistible convictions of justice, which by a law of necessity cause them to take sides with righteousness, justice, and goodness. The truth is that all men, whatever their character, have a common awareness of right and wrong. God has written his law in the hearts of all men!
- All men, without exception, know that doing good to others rather than evil is their obligation. They know that kindness ought to be repaid by gratitude and not by hatred. If a man were to repay a kind deed with a hateful deed, his act would be considered wrong by all men. All men, without exception, know that they are under an obligation to govern their own conduct by the same rules as they think binding upon other men. There is only one adequate explanation of all this: man is a rational moral being created in the image of God, with the law of God written in his heart, and he cannot escape the testimony of that law!
- The fact that men will deny the wrong they have done shows that they recognize an absolute standard of right and wrong. For instance, a man is accused of lying, cheating, or stealing. If the accusation is true, why does he deny it? It can only be that he recognizes that what he has done is wrong, for he would have no reason to hide or deny what he has done if he did not recognize it to be wrong.
- The fact that men blame other men for wrongdoing shows that all men have the law of God written in their hearts. For instance, if someone's car is stolen, he would never say, "Oh, I don't blame whoever stole my car. After all, there is nothing wrong with stealing. People just think it's wrong to steal because society has educated them that way." The employee who is cheated out of his wages by his employer doesn't say, "Oh, he hasn't done anything wrong. He just learned a different set of ethics than most of us." All men resent unjust treatment when they are treated unjustly. If anyone abuses them with degrading or filthy language, they will be offended and blame the one who has abused them. And if anyone were to attempt to explain to them that they have not really been wronged and that they just think they have been wronged because of their religious education or environment, they will judge that person a fit candidate for the crazy house. The truth is that all men blame other men for wrongdoing, and this is true even if they know that they themselves are guilty of the same things. A man may be a liar, a thief, and a cheat himself, but he still judges those attributes as wrong in others. Whoever heard of a liar who was happy to be deceived by another liar? What liar would ever say, "I just love and admire liars; they are so noble!"?
- There is no escaping the fact that men have a common awareness of right and wrong and that they have this awareness without ever having read the Scripture, and without the shaping or teaching influence of society. Man's knowledge of right and wrong is not the product of society. On the contrary, it is because of man's innate knowledge of right and wrong that an ordered society can and does exist with some degree of cohesion and decency. In fact, it is only man's common awareness of right and wrong, given him in his nature, that keeps society half-way on the track of decency and order. I say "half-way" because, although our moral nature forces irresistible convictions of right and wrong upon us, it cannot force us to do the right. We, as free moral agents, are able to obey or disobey the law of our nature.
- Man's whole system of human government, with its law and its penalty for the broken law, is founded and built upon his common awareness of responsibility and accountability. Without this awareness, human government would not and could not exist. Therefore, human government with its laws, penalties, police forces, courts, judges, etc., gives mute testimony to the fact that all men know themselves to be moral agents and fully responsible and accountable for their deeds. Otherwise, moral government would be an imposition and senseless, as senseless as a moral government over the beasts of the field.
Finally, it should be emphasized that sin is never spoken of as a calamity or a misfortune in the Scripture. It is spoken of as a crime and rebellion. But there could be no greater calamity or misfortune in heaven or in earth than that of being born sinners! If men were born sinners and could not help but sin, they would never be treated as criminals and rebels against the government of God. Instead, they would be considered of all the creatures of God, the most worthy of pity, sympathy, and compassion. They would be considered supremely unfortunate, and their sin the greatest misfortune and calamity in the universe.
If the sinner really were unfortunate, the Scripture would have to be rewritten, because it never speaks of the sinner as unfortunate or worthy of pity, but rather as being wicked and worthy of everlasting punishment. Remember how God judged wicked sinners in the days of Noah. He overthrew them with a flood and sent them quickly to their deaths (Genesis 6:5-13). Now, it is absolutely unbelievable that God would do such a thing if it were true that those sinners were born morally depraved and could not help but commit sin.
Look how God judged the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon them and sent their wicked inhabitants to their deaths But if the filthy wickedness that was committed in those cities was the result of an inborn moral depravity, how could God possibly have sent them to their death for their sins?
Then, think of the multitudes upon multitudes of heathen who have died in their sins and gone down into the grave, without a knowledge of the Gospel. It is incredible beyond imagination that God would send them to hell if they were born sinners and committed sin because of the nature with which they were born! No, the whole Scripture would have to be rewritten if the doctrine of original sin were true because it contradicts the letter and the spirit of every page of the Scriptures.
Thirteen Reasons Why the Doctrine of Original Sin is False
1. It makes sin a misfortune and a calamity rather than a crime.
In fact, if the doctrine of original sin were true, sin would be a calamity rather than a crime. Could a sinful nature be the crime of him upon whom it is entailed without his knowledge or consent? If this doctrine were true, the sinner would be the most unfortunate creature in the universe. To blame him or call him criminal for his sins would be absurd, and to punish him for his sins would be a cruel injustice. He would not deserve punishment for his sins, but would rather deserve pity and compassion for the misfortune he had suffered by being born into this world with a sinful nature. And, of course, under these circumstances the Scripture would have to be rewritten. For it never speaks of the sinner as unfortunate. It speaks of the sinner's guilt and ill-desert. In the Scripture, sin is represented as a crime that deserves the everlasting punishment of hell.
2. It excuses the sinner. The sinner knows he cannot be to blame for his sins, if he is born a sinner and sins unavoidably, because of the nature with which he is born. The sinner is compelled to excuse himself (secretly at least) if he really believes that he sins because of an inborn sin nature. It is not a matter of whether he chooses to excuse himself or not; he cannot help but excuse himself. If he really believes that he is born a sinner, and that he cannot help but sin because of inborn sin, he must, and he will, excuse himself, even if only secretly.
Over against the fact that this doctrine gives the sinner an excuse for his sins, we have the scriptural fact that God does not excuse sin. Sin, in the Scripture, is always denounced in the strongest language possible, and under the most terrible of penalties. The letter and the spirit of the whole Scripture is against any doctrine that would permit men to excuse themselves in their sins.
3. It makes God responsible for sin.
If men are born with a sinful nature, who is to blame? Surely not the sinner, for he had no choice in being born with a sinful nature. The sinner is no more to blame for being born with his nature than he is for being born with blue eyes. But, who is the author of our nature? Who is our Creator? Who formed us in our mother's womb? Who gave us life and breath and all things? To talk of men being born with a sinful nature is to ascribe sin to God because God is the Author of our nature.
4. It dishonors God and makes his government tyrannical, cruel, and unjust.
According to this doctrine, innocent little babies are born with a sinful nature, and because of their nature, are objects of God's wrath. Could anything make God more cruel and unreasonable?
This doctrine is infinitely dishonorable to God. Men know it would be cruel and unjust to condemn them for the nature with which they are born. They know that they cannot justly be worthy of the wrath of God for being born with a nature which they did not choose and which they could not avoid. They know that God would be a tyrant and his government tyranny if this grotesque doctrine were true.
5. It is a stumbling-block to the unsaved.
The sinner could not help but stumble over a doctrine that represents God as being cruel and unjust. According to this doctrine, God created us under such physical laws as would cause us all to be born sinners, and then condemns us for being born sinners! The sinner who really believes this doctrine is compelled to regard God as infinitely cruel and unjust. It is not a matter of whether he chooses to regard God as unjust. His irresistible convictions of justice, given to him in his nature by God, will compel him to regard God as unjust. He may not voice his convictions, but he will still hold them secretly nonetheless.
And as long as he feels that God's government is unjust and that he is not to blame for his sins, he cannot really repent. Repentance implies that the sinner blame himself for his sins. It implies that he admit that God and his government are righteous and that he has been all wrong. It implies that, in this spirit, the sinner turn from his sins and submit himself to God's government. But all of this is impossible while the sinner believes a doctrine that causes him to excuse his sins and to regard God's government as cruel and unjust.
6. It begets complacency and a low standard of religion among Christians.
Christ has two great causes in this world today: the salvation of the lost and the perfection of His assembly. Every influence of this doctrine is to hinder these two great causes of Christ. If the sinner believes that God's government is unjust and that he is not really to blame for his sins, then he will not, and cannot, genuinely repent. And if the Christian believes that his very nature is sinful, and that it is impossible for him to live without sinning, then he will not aim for Christian perfection, nor will he feel greatly disturbed about sin and worldliness in his life. Every tendency of this doctrine begets an indulgent spirit toward sin and a low standard of religion among Christians.
7. It soothes the conscience of sinning Christians, causing them to stumble.
Christians sometimes make the excuse that they cannot help but sin because of a sinful nature inherited from Adam. One brother told me that, before his conversion, he actually prayed to God for clemency and excused his sins by telling God that his sins were the result of his Adamic sin nature. This false doctrine soothes the conscience of unnumbered sinners in the churches and will ultimately stumble them into a sinner's fate.
8. It causes ministers to wink at and excuse sin in their churches.
Ministers who believe this doctrine will have a tendency to wink at and excuse sin in their churches. The whole tendency of this doctrine is to beget an indulgent spirit toward sin, and the low, unscriptural standard of religion that actually exists in many churches today.
Where this doctrine is taught and believed there will be little real horror of sinning against God. Christians and ministers will excuse sin with such statements as: "Nobody's perfect," "Even the Apostle Paul had to struggle with 'indwelling sin,'" "God will change us when we get to heaven," "Christians are not perfect, just forgiven," "Be patient, God is still working on me," "I made a mistake," and "God understands our weaknesses and human frailties."
Ministers who really believe this doctrine and have worldly members in their churches will not be inclined to blame them for their worldliness. And, thus, the worldly will be allowed to settle down in their worldliness without feeling any really great danger. After all, God knows and understands that they have the "old Adamic sin nature" dwelling in them and will have until they die and go to heaven. God will not judge them for their human weaknesses, frailties, and faults. So multitudes of people in the churches deceive themselves, and go on in the broad way of worldliness, selfishness, and sin which will finally lead them down into the path of destruction.
9. It contradicts all the great doctrines of the Scripture.
This doctrine is so out of character with the Scripture that it contradicts all its fundamental teachings. This is something that no true doctrine of the Scripture could do, but is exactly what would be expected of a false doctrine. We have already seen that it permits the sinner to excuse himself in his sins. But the letter and the spirit of the whole Scripture is against any doctrine that would permit men to excuse themselves in their sins. We have seen that it makes sin a misfortune and a calamity rather than a crime. But the Scripture speaks of sin as an act that deserves punishment. Also, we have seen that it makes the sinner deserve pity and compassion rather than blame for his sins. But you can search through the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, and you will find that God never pities, but always blames, the sinner for his sins.
The fact is that the doctrine of original sin is so contrary to the Scripture that to try to make the two harmonize would be like trying to make light and darkness exist together in one and the same place. Only by completely rewriting the Scripture could it be made to agree with the doctrine of original sin.
For instance, the most fundamental doctrines of the Scripture are contradicted by the doctrine of original sin:
a. The doctrines of mercy, grace, guilt, pardon, and repentance.
Can a man really be guilty for possessing the nature with which he is born? Can God show him mercy, and pardon his guilt if it is true that he has suffered the misfortune of being born into this world a sinner? What kind of grace would it be that would save a man from the misfortune of being born into this world a sinner? It would not be grace that would save him; it would be justice. And how could a man sincerely repent and condemn himself for his sins if he believed that he was born a sinner and could not avoid sin because of an inborn sin nature? All the fundamental doctrines of the Scripture are emptied of their meaning and become contradictory and confusing if the doctrine of original sin is accepted.
b. The doctrine of God's justice and righteousness in his judgment of sinners.
The Scripture says that God will "judge the world in righteousness" (Psalm 9:8). But could God judge the world and be righteous if this doctrine were true? What of the heathen who are lost without ever hearing the Gospel? If this doctrine is true, the heathen are born sinners and will of necessity live in sin because of an inherited sin nature, and when they die without ever hearing the Gospel and having a chance to be saved, are they doomed to the everlasting punishment of hell? Now, if it is true that they are born sinners and cannot help but sin, can God justly send them to hell? Our God-given convictions of justice war against such an idea.
Those who believe in the doctrine of original sin cannot escape the conviction that justice requires that the heathen have a chance to hear the Gospel and be saved. They cannot escape the convictions that it is unjust that the heathen be lost without at least having the opportunity to accept or reject the Gospel. They feel that the heathen are owed the opportunity to hear the Gospel so they might have a chance to be saved.
But where did this idea come from that the heathen are owed the chance to be saved? I answer: It springs up irresistibly from the belief that men are not the authors of their own sin. It springs up from the belief that men are born with a sinful nature and cannot help but sin. So since they are born with a sinful nature and cannot help but sin, they cannot deserve hell without at least a chance to hear the Gospel and be saved. But the idea that any one is owed the chance to be saved is completely foreign to the Scripture. God does not owe anyone the chance to be saved. He does not save anyone to satisfy justice. Jesus did not die for wicked men because he owed them a chance to be saved, but because of his love, mercy, and grace.
But those who believe in the doctrine of original sin find themselves with compelling convictions that contradict the fundamental Scripture doctrine of God's righteousness in judging the heathen. The doctrine of original sin compels them to believe that it is not just for the heathen to be judged without a chance to be saved. And, in fact, if the doctrine of original sin were true, it would not be just to condemn the heathen without a chance to hear the Gospel and be saved. Moreover, if the doctrine of original sin were true, salvation would be on the grounds of justice rather than grace. The justice of God would require that God not only make sure that all mankind have a chance to hear the Gospel, but it would also require that God provide grace (or justice) of such a magnitude that all men would certainly and irresistibly be saved.
10. It makes Jesus a sinner
The doctrine of original sin makes Jesus a sinner. The advocates of the doctrine of original sin quote Job 14:4 and 15:14 to teach that men are born sinners:
Job 14:4, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one."
Job 15:14, "What is man, that he should be clean? and he that is born of woman, that he should be righteous?"
The first of these texts supposedly teaches that a sinner will always produce another sinner. The second is supposed to teach substantially the same thing, that is, that all those who are born of woman are born sinners. But if the doctrine of original sin is true, then Mary, the mother of our Lord, was also born a sinner; and if a sinner always produces another sinner, and if all those who are born of woman are born sinners, then there is no way to escape the conclusion that Jesus also was born a sinner. So in misusing these and other texts to teach that men are born sinners, the advocates of original sin are also making Jesus a sinner because he partook of the same human nature as other men.
Jesus was a man. He was born of a woman. He was the seed of Abraham, the offspring of David, descended from Adam (Matthew 1:1, Romans 1:3, Hebrews 2:16, Revelation 22:16). The humanity of Christ is fully and unequivocally taught in the Scripture, and to teach the doctrine that men are born sinners is to teach the blasphemy that "the man Christ Jesus" was born a sinner.
The Scripture says,
Hebrews 2:16,"Verily he took not on him the nature of angels but the seed of Abraham."
Hebrews 2:17, "In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest."
Hebrews 2:14, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same."
Hebrews 2:11, "For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."
Hebrews 4:15, "For we have not an high priest which can not be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we, yet without sin."
The Scripture teaches that Christ was, in all respects, a real man, possessing both a human body and a human soul, and with all the attributes of a man. He was born of a woman. He was nourished and cared for by his mother, as other men are. He was circumcised according to the law of Moses. He was once an infant in knowledge, for he grew both in Wisdom and in stature. He hungered, he thirsted, he ate, he drank, he labored, he slept, he grew tired, and he lived and died like other men. He was recognized as a man and a Jew by other men. "Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be make like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people." "For we have not an high priest which can not be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11,17; 4:15).
It is a serious error to deny the deity of Christ. One cannot be a Christian and deny his deity. John taught that it is equally serious to deny the humanity of Christ. "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God" (I John 4:2-3). "Many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist" (II John 7).
The doctrine of Christ's human nature is fully attested in the Scripture. Nevertheless, because of their belief that men are born sinners and that human nature or the flesh is inherently sinful, the defenders of the doctrine of original sin must deny in some way or another the real humanity of Christ and that he came in human flesh like other men (Philippians 2:6-8, I Timothy 3:16, Galatians 4:4, John 1:14, I John 4:2-3, II John 7).
Every which way it turns, the doctrine of original sin flies in the face of the teachings of the Word of God. It makes Jesus a sinner, or it must deny his true humanity.
11. It begets other false doctrines.
Many false views on sin and salvation, with their concurrent misinterpretations of the Scriptures, come out of this one fundamental error. Consider the following:
a. The doctrine of the "Immaculate Conception."The Scripture never speaks of a sinner's natural inability to obey God. When it speaks of the sinner's inability to obey God, it is always speaking of a moral inability. He cannot obey because he is so selfish that he is unwilling to obey. All men can obey if they will. The following are just a few of the many verses from the Scripture that teach that the Christian has been freed from his sins by the grace of Christ, and that he now has the power to live a victorious sin-free life (Romans 6:6,14,17,18,22, John 8:34,36).
This is the doctrine that Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, was "conceived free from any of the corruption of original sin," in order that she might be pure enough to be the mother of Christ. Of course, this doctrine is not taught in the Scripture. It is an invention of men, made necessary by a belief in the doctrine of original sin.
b. The doctrine of infant baptism for the remission of original sin.
This doctrine is another invention of men, made necessary to relieve innocent little infants from the guilt of original sin and the wrath of God, which supposedly rest upon them because of being born with a sinful nature.
c. The doctrine of Limbo.
This doctrine is another invention made necessary for infants who die without baptism. Limbo is supposed to be a place where unbaptized infants go instead of hell, "where neither the joys of heaven nor the miseries of hell prevail."
d. The doctrine that men have lost the image of God since the fall of Adam.
This is another unscriptural doctrine made necessary by a belief in the doctrine of original sin. Of course, if men come into this world "dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body," as the Westminster Confession says, they have certainly not been created in the image of God. But the fact that man is created in the image of God is evident from the Scriptures. God told Noah, long after the sin of Adam, that man was "made in the image of God" (Genesis 9:6). And, of course, the New Testament Scriptures teach just as clearly that man is created in the image of God (I Corinthians 11:7, James 3:9, Acts 17:29). It is amazing how men will ignore the clear teachings of the Holy Scriptures in order to accommodate the doctrine of original sin.
e. The doctrine of a physical, passive regeneration.
Believing, as the advocates of original sin do, that moral depravity is constitutional in nature, they must believe in a physical and passive regeneration, in order to be consistent. Regeneration, according to this school, is a change in the constitutional nature of man. It is a change wrought by the power of the Holy Spirit, in which the sinner is wholly passive, and in which new and holy susceptibilities, dispositions, tastes, and appetites are implanted or created in the soul.
The problem with this is that no such physical or passive regeneration is taught in the Scripture. The Scripture teaches that the work which the Holy Spirit does in the sinner is moral rather than physical. It is a work of moral persuasion, of divine teaching and illumination, of convicting and reproving of sin (John 6:44-45; 15:3; 16:8, James 1:18, I Peter 1:22-23). The Scripture teaches that the sinner cannot be passive in regeneration, but he must respond to the voice of God. He must repent and make to himself "a new heart and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:30-32).
The Scripture teaches that regeneration is the work of both God and man:
- The work of God (Titus 3:5, James 1:18, I John 3:9, John 3:5, John 6:44-45);
- The work of the sinner himself (Ezekiel 18:31, I Peter 1:22, James 4:7-8, Acts 3:19, James 1:21, Jeremiah 4:14);
- The work of men who preach the Word of God (I Corinthians 4:15, Philippians 1:10, James 5:19-20, Proverbs 11:30, Daniel 12:3, Mark 1:17, I Corinthians 9:22); and
- The work of the Word of God (I Corinthians 4:15, James 1:18, James 1:21, I Peter 1:23).
There is no passive physical change in the sinner when he becomes a saint. The Scripture teaches that regeneration is an active, cooperative, moral change, and not a passive physical change.
f. The doctrine of a natural inability to repent.
If man's very nature is sinful, then it is a natural impossibility for him to repent. This fact has led naturally and necessarily to the doctrine that God first changes the sinner's nature in regeneration (passive regeneration), and then the sinner repents. According to this school of thought, repentance and conversion both follow regeneration because the sinner cannot obey God's command to repent and be converted until after he has been regenerated.
g. The doctrines of arbitrary election and reprobation, absolute and unconditional predestination, irresistible grace, and a necessitated will.
h. The doctrine of a natural inability to obey God.
The doctrine of a natural inability to obey God is at the very heart of the doctrine of original sin. According to the advocates of original sin, all men, even those who are Christians, have a corrupt, sinful nature and are unable to obey God as long as they are in this life:
This doctrine opens the floodgates of rebellion against God, for it implies impunity for sin. Surely God would not be so unreasonable as to judge us for sin when he knows that we are by nature unable to obey him. Oh, what a lie the church has embraced! There is not one verse in the entire Scripture that says men have a sinful nature which makes them unable to obey God. It is true that all sinners are in a moral sense unable to obey God, but they are not naturally unable to obey God. And there is a great difference between a natural inability and a moral inability to obey God. Let us illustrate the difference between the two:
A friend of mine is standing next to his brand new Cadillac. I ask him, "Can you lift your car off the ground?"
"No!" he answers. His answer here refers to a natural inability. It is naturally and physically impossible for him to lift so much weight.
Then I ask, "Can you sell me your new car for a dollar?"
Again, he answers, "No!" His answer this time refers to a moral inability. It does not mean that it is really a natural impossibility for him to sell his car, but that he cannot sell it because he is not willing to sell it.
Now, who shall we believe? Shall we reject God's Word in order to hold on to a man-made doctrine? Shall we go to God in prayer and say: "Lord, thou hast promised that sin shall not have dominion over me; thou hast promised that he whom the Son sets free is free indeed; and Lord, thou hast given many other promises, assuring me of thy grace and power to keep me from sin but Lord, I don't believe thy promises; Lord, I don't think thou art able to keep me from sin in this life because I have been taught by men that I still have the remaining corruptions of original sin in me and will not be able to obey thee perfectly until I die and go to heaven."
Now, although you may not voice these very words in prayer, this is the unbelieving spirit that rules your life if you excuse sin by claiming a natural inability to obey God. But again, the doctrine of inability contradicts the very heart of the Gospel the good news that Jesus died to liberate us from our sins (Galatians 1:4, Titus 2:14, Acts 3:26, Ephesians 5:25-27).
The doctrine of inability demeans the grace and the power of God. What a low opinion preachers have of the grace and power of God when they say that God cannot enable his people to live without sin. God tells us that "sin shall not have dominion over us because we are under his grace," he tells us that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound," and he tells us that we are "kept by the power of God, through faith." But the doctrine of inability tells us that, with all of God's abounding grace, we are still unable to obey him and live without sin. Listen as the advocates of original sin cast aspersions upon the power of God's grace to free from sin: "No man is able...by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed." Larger Catechism.
The doctrine of inability makes God a liar. He solemnly promises to keep us from being tempted above our ability to obey. He promises to liberate us from all sin, and to preserve us in righteousness and holiness, but according to the doctrine of inability, his promises are all empty. If the doctrine of inability is true, then God is insincere and deceitful because he commands us to do what he knows we cannot do. Surely if the doctrine of inability is true, God knows about it. Yet in the face of all this, he commands: "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" and "As he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation" (Matthew 5:48, I Peter 1:15). Now if God gives us these commandments, knowing that it is impossible for us to obey them, then he is insincere and deceitful.
The fact is that the doctrine of inability turns the whole Scripture upside-down. It mocks both the promises and the commandments of God. It blackens God's character, demeans his grace, and excuses the sinner in his sins. It is not just a harmless myth and religious superstition; it is infinitely worse. It is a devilish doctrine that muffles the voice of conscience, corrupts Christian practice, and stumbles Christians into deception. It teaches that the Christian must never expect to be saved from sin in this life, and that he should expect to live more or less in rebellion against his Savior until he dies and goes to heaven. What a lie from the devil! Where can this teaching be found in the Scripture? Instead of teaching that the Christian cannot be freed from sin and made holy until he gets to heaven, the Scripture warns that the unholy will never get to heaven! (Hebrews 12:14, Matthew 5:8, 1 Peter 4:17,18, Revelation 3:4,5).
The myth that God will transform the character of the sinning Christian when he gets to heaven, and once there, make him a holy Christian, is just that: a myth. The decree of God is:
Revelation 22:11, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still."
God will not change the character of anyone after he dies. He is changing the character of sinners now, in this life, while we are yet in this present world. But, oh, how many are deceiving themselves by the false doctrine that suddenly, when they get to heaven, they will be transformed into holy Christians (Revelation 22:11,12,14,15).
The doctrine of a natural inability to obey God is a devilish doctrine that is stumbling multitudes of professing Christians into a world of sin and rebellion against God.
12. The doctrine of original sin adds to, and takes from, the Scripture.
God says, "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). But the whole original sin dogma is an addition to the Scripture.
For instance, the doctrine of original sin teaches that the whole human race existed in Adam and sinned with him when he transgressed, that we had one common will with Adam, that his will was the will of the race, and that when Adam revolted, the will of the race revolted with him. But you can search your Scripture through from beginning to end, and you will never find this taught in it. It is not taught there. It is man's doctrine added to the Scripture.
Again, the doctrine of original sin teaches that Adam was our federal head or moral representative, and that God made a covenant with him, agreeing to give eternal life to him and all his descendants if he obeyed, and threatening condemnation upon him and all his descendants if he disobeyed. But is any of this teaching in the Scripture? No, the Scripture is silent about this imagined covenant made with Adam.
Again, men teach that God created us under such physical laws as would cause us all to be born sinners. They teach that we are born with a corrupt sinful nature which is the fountain and cause of all our actual sins, that we sin unavoidably because of that nature, and that even the Christian sins necessarily because of the "remaining corruptions" of his inborn sin nature. Can these unholy and grotesque teachings be found in the Scripture? No. They are all additions to the Scripture.
Does the Scripture speak of the "Immaculate Conception"? Does it speak of infant baptism for the remission of original sin? Does it speak of "Limbo" (purgatory)? Does it talk about an "inborn sin nature" or an Adamic sin nature"? Does it mention "original sin" or "actual sin," making a distinction between the two? No. None of these doctrines, and none of these terms, can be found in the Scripture. They are all inventions of men and additions to the Scripture.
But the doctrine of original sin also takes from the Word of God. It takes away those passages in the Scripture that declare that men are guilty and blameworthy for their sins, and makes their sins the unfortunate result of being born with a sinful nature. It takes away all those passages in the Scripture that teach that God is loving, good, and just and makes him cruel and unjust, by teaching that God condemned the whole human race for Adam's sin. It takes away those passages in the Scripture that teach that men are created upright, with a good nature, and in the image and likeness of God, by teaching that since Adam's sin, men are no longer created in the image of God, but are born defiled in "all the faculties and parts of soul and body." It takes away those texts in the Scripture that teach that Jesus had true human nature like other men, by teaching that Jesus could not have had the same human nature as other men without being a sinner.
It takes away the heart and soul of the Gospel, the Scriptural truth that God saves his people from their sins, by teaching that the Christian cannot live even for one day without sinning in thought, word, or deed. It contradicts and weakens the spirit of holiness that shines from every page of the Holy Scripture, when it teaches that God's work of holiness in the church must wait until the church gets to heaven because of the "remaining corruptions of original sin." It destroys innumerable promises that God has given to the church, promises that the church can overcome sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. And in doing this, it also limits the power of the Holy One of Israel, making sin infinitely more powerful than the power of his sanctifying grace through his indwelling Holy Spirit.
Every which way it turns, the doctrine of original sin either takes away some glorious truth from the Scripture, or it adds some grotesque teaching that contradicts the Scripture. It brings confusion to Gospel truth, making the doctrines of mercy, grace, guilt, pardon, and repentance unintelligible. It makes the holy, just, and loving God to be cruel and unjust, and it makes the wicked sinner to be the unfortunate recipient of a nature which he could not avoid. It is a stumbling-block to the church, encouraging many who call themselves Christians to live a life so far below the Scripture standard of holiness and true Christianity that they will ultimately fall into a hypocrite's hell.
13. It is ridiculous, absurd, and unreasonable. It contradicts the necessary and irresistible affirmations of every man's consciousness and reason, something that no Scriptural doctrine could do.
The necessary affirmations of every man's reason testify that the doctrine of original sin is false. But some Christians object that we should not appeal to reason in determining the truth or falseness of doctrines, and that if we do, we will go off into error. There exists, at least among some Christians, the superstition that man's God-given reason cannot be trusted, that it is subversive of the Word of God, and that if we accepted its necessary and irresistible affirmations, the doctrines of the Scripture would be overthrown. But just the opposite is true. Man's reason and consciousness are in harmony with the Scripture and confirm its teachings.
But how is it that some Christians can actually believe that reason will overthrow the doctrines of the Scripture? I answer: by believing doctrines that they know are contradicted by reason, and believing that these doctrines are taught in the Scripture. Let's explain: All the truths of the Scripture are in harmony with man's reason, his moral nature, and his consciousness. The Scriptures never teach anything which our consciousness and rational moral nature declare to be false, unjust, or impossible. The fundamental truths of Christianity cannot be in manifest contradiction to reason. Yet the doctrine of original sin does contradict reason, reality, and man's irresistible convictions of justice. But Christians have been taught to believe it is a Scriptural doctrine. At the same time, they are conscious that it contradicts their reason and their convictions of justice. The result is that they think reason is to be distrusted and rejected as an evil that would overthrow the doctrines of the Scripture if relied on!
But I repeat what I said earlier: Would those who believe in the doctrine of original sin reject reason if the doctrine of original sin were reasonable? What is the reason that they reject reason when discussing original sin? It is because reason rejects the original sin dogma. If our reason told us that it would be just and righteous for a whole race to be condemned for the sin of one man, they would not object to reason. If our reason told us that the heathen could justly by born sinners, and commit sin necessarily because of an inborn sin nature, and then die in their sins without a knowledge of the Gospel, and go down into hell, they would not object to reason. If reason told us that sin, with its guilt and condemnation, could be passed on in the physical constitution of man, they would not object to reason. If reason told us that a non-moral and non-personal entity called "flesh" could, contrary to its nature, take on personality and moral character, and be sinful, they would not object to reason. No, they object to reason only because they are conscious that the doctrine of original sin is unreasonable.
In effect, the defenders of the doctrine of original sin admit that the doctrine of original sin is unreasonable. For them to say that the testimony of reason should not be admitted is a tacit admission that the necessary affirmations of their own reason testify against the doctrine of original sin.
There are certain self-evident truths, direct perceptions of reason, known to be true to all men. A thing cannot both be and not be. Two contradictory things cannot both be true. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. The whole cannot be greater than the sum of its parts. Every effect must have a cause. A creation implies a creator. Moral character is non-transferable. There are no proxies in morals. Sin cannot be imputed where it does not exist without injustice. Perfect justice cannot punish the innocent for the guilt of another. Sin is personal and non-transferable. Now all of the above truths are known intuitively. They do not need to be proved. They are direct perceptions of reason, and cannot rationally be denied by any man.
But the doctrine of original sin does deny self-evident truths. It denies the self-evident truth that there can be no proxies in morals and teaches that Adam committed sin for us by proxy. It denies that moral character is non-transferable and teaches that Adam's sinful character was transferred to all his descendants! It denies that sin cannot be imputed where it does not exist without injustice and teaches that the infinitely holy and just God imputed the sin of Adam to all his descendants. It denies that perfect justice cannot punish the innocent for the guilt of another and teaches that God, who is perfect in truth and justice, condemned the whole human race for the sin of Adam.
To say that the doctrine of original sin is unreasonable is a profound understatement. There really never has existed a doctrine so unreasonable, so absurd, and so ridiculous as this doctrine. It is not only absurd, it is plain superstition to believe that we sinned in Adam thousands of years before we were born and began our existence. No man can torture his consciousness into affirming that he existed and sinned thousands of years before he was born. To believe that man's flesh can be inherently sinful and that men can be born sinners is gross superstition. The whole dogma of original sin is a monstrous superstition and a fantastic fiction that is fit only for the pages of some wild science fiction novel.
The doctrine of original sin is clearly unreasonable, and can only be a doctrine of the Scripture if the doctrines of the Scripture can be unreasonable. But it is both a foolish and a dangerous idea to think that the doctrines of the Scripture can be unreasonable. The Scripture is the inspired Word of God, and as such, it must be reasonable, consistent, and harmonious throughout. If men propound any theory and try to force it on the church as a doctrine of the Word of God, and that doctrine is absurd, unreasonable, and contradictory with other doctrines of the Scripture, then it is foolish and wicked to accept it, while rejecting the arguments of reason which show its error.
The Scriptures never teach anything which our consciousness and moral nature declare to be false, unjust, or impossible. The fundamental truths of Christianity cannot be in manifest contradictions to reason, reality, and justice. And yet the original sin dogma does contradict man's reason, man's knowledge of reality, and man's irresistible convictions of justice.
Jesus was a Man
If the doctrine of original sin is true, one of two things must be true: either Jesus was born a sinner, or he was not a man. Now, the Scripture is clear on both points. Jesus was a man, and he was without sin. We know, therefore, that the doctrine of original sin cannot be true. It is a myth and a lie.
John denounced those who denied that Jesus came in the flesh as deceivers and antichrists. What does it mean to deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh? It means to deny that Jesus was a man, with a flesh and blood body like other men. Are there any people today who deny that Christ has come in the flesh? Yes, all those who believe in the doctrine of the sinfulness of human flesh must either believe that Christ, who came in human flesh, was born a sinner or they must deny that he came in the flesh.
It is a serious error to deny the deity of Christ. One cannot be a Christian and deny his deity. John taught that it is equally serious to deny the humanity of Christ:
I John 4:3, "Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come."
II John 7, "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist."
John wrote his epistles, condemning those "who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" because of the teaching of the Gnostics. The Gnostics had a syncretic religion that combined Christianity with eastern religion, pagan philosophies, and the doctrines of mysticism and gnosis. They denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh because of their philosophical belief that matter is evil. So according to their belief, if Jesus had come with a real human body, he would have been sinful. They denied the real incarnation of Christ, his bodily sufferings on the cross, and his bodily resurrection because of their view that man's material body and all material things are polluted and sinful. They denied that he came in the flesh to save him from sin. His fleshly manifestations were not real but only apparent.
It was from the teachings of gnosticism, with its pagan philosophical belief that all material things are essentially evil, that the doctrine of original sin was born. Augustine, the father of the doctrine of original sin, was for many years a disciple of the Manichaeans, which was a Gnostic sect. His doctrine of physical moral depravity and of inherited physical sinfulness had its roots in the teachings of gnosticism.
Why is all of this important? Because the Scripture teaches that Jesus was a man and that he came in the flesh. However, the doctrine of original sin teaches that man, his flesh, and his bodily nature are corrupted and sinful because of Adam's transgression. It is impossible to believe the doctrine of man's inherited bodily sinfulness without either believing that Jesus was born a sinner or that he was not a man. For if the doctrine of original sin is true, either Jesus was born a sinner or he was not a man! Jesus was a man. He did come in the flesh, and he was without sin. Therefore the doctrine of original sin cannot be true. It is a myth and a lie (II John 7-11, I John 3:6,9; 4:2-6; 5:4,18, John 1:14).
The Nature and Attributes of Sin
Man must sin to be a sinner.
The foregoing statement may seem too obvious to need stating, and something that no one could deny. But those who advocate the doctrine of original sin both ignore what is clearly obvious and deny what is palpably undeniable. They teach that an infant who has never sinned is not only a sinner, but is guilty, condemned and under God's wrath.
But, what is sin? The Scripture says, "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). But what law does a newborn baby transgress by being born? Has God given a law that makes it a sin to be born? But if children violate no law in being born, then they are surely not sinners. One might as well call a man a drunkard who has never tasted drink, or a man a thief who has never stolen, or a man a murderer who has never killed, as to say that an infant who has never sinned is a sinner.
Or does God's law legislate over our nature, requiring us to be born with a certain nature? No, God has given no law requiring us to be born with a certain nature. The fact is that God is satisfied with the nature he has given us. He legislates only over the use we make of our nature. Since sin is the transgression of the law, an understanding of the nature of law will give us a clearer understanding of the nature of sin.
1. Law, in its generic sense, is any rule of action.
2. Physical law is a rule of necessary or involuntary action. The law of gravity is a physical law. The law of gravity is a rule of action that operates by a law of necessity or force as opposed to freedom and voluntary choice.
3. Moral law is a rule of free and intelligent action as opposed to involuntary or necessary action.
It is the rule for the government of free and intelligent action, as opposed to necessary and unintelligent action. It is the law of liberty, as opposed to the law of necessity--of motive and free choice, as opposed to force of every kind. Moral law is primarily a rule of the direction of the action of free will and strictly of free will only.
We see then what must be the necessary attributes of sin. They must be liberty, voluntariness, and intelligence. By the word intelligence, it is not meant that sin is a good or reasonable choice. It is meant that the choice to sin is made with the full knowledge that it is wrong. It is an intelligent choice because the sinner knows the moral character of his actions before he sins. He knows that he is doing wrong, and if he had no knowledge of right and wrong, he could not sin. Moral law, then, cannot govern the actions of infants, who have no knowledge of right and wrong. A moral agent is a moral agent only because he has an understanding of the moral character of his actions. Infants, therefore, cannot be sinners.
Liberty, or freedom, is another attribute of sin. Without liberty there could be no such thing as sin. It is affirmed that babies are born sinners. Have they had the liberty to make a choice about this? Are they free to choose not to be born sinners? If not, then they cannot be born sinners. To speak of them being sinners involuntarily and by a law of necessity is to talk utter nonsense. Liberty, or freedom to choose (free moral agency), is a necessary attribute of sin, and if there is no liberty, there can be no sin.
The very idea of sin implies free choice. It implies that the sinner is free to do good instead of evil, and that he is able to avoid sin. If his actions are not free, and if his actions are necessitated, his deeds cannot have moral character and he cannot be a sinner. To talk of being born a sinner is the same nonsense as to talk of a wicked gun. If man is a sinner by birth, he can no more be wicked or sinful than the gun which is used to commit murder can be wicked or sinful. A sinner is a sinner only because his actions are free. Without free choice, sin cannot exist.
Voluntariness is an attribute of sin. Children cannot be born sinners because their birth is involuntary. They do not choose to be born. Their birth is completely involuntary. An involuntary sinner, a sinner by birth, is a contradiction because one of the attributes of sin is voluntariness. It is a contradiction of terms to speak of being born a sinner. The term sinner implies liberty, voluntariness, and intelligence. So to speak of being born a sinner is to speak of an impossibility. It is to use terms which contradict each other.
By necessity, the attributes of sin are liberty, intelligence, and voluntariness. Any doctrine that assumes, as does the doctrine of original sin, that sin can be predicated of unfree, involuntary, and unintelligent action is absurd. There can be no unfree, involuntary, and unintelligent sin. All of these attributes pertain to physical law, rather than moral law, and completely negate the idea of sin.
The "Age of Accountability"
The term "age of accountability" is not used in the Scripture. Nevertheless, the doctrine of an age or a time when men become accountable for their actions is clearly taught in the Scripture. What is meant by this term is that children cannot be accountable for their actions until they have a knowledge of good and evil, until they know to refuse the evil and choose the good.
We know that children are not sinners at birth; for if they were, there could be no such thing as an "age of accountability." If babies are guilty and condemned for the sin of Adam from birth, then there is no room for them to reach a certain age before they become accountable. They are guilty and under God's wrath from birth. However, the Scripture teaches that babies do not inherit sin and guilt from Adam. "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil..." (Romans 9:11). Jacob and Esau had no original sin; they did not sin with Adam when he transgressed. We know this because they were not sinners while in the womb of their mother, Rebecca. Since the Scripture says they had done nothing good or evil up to this time, we must assume that they became moral agents at some later time, after they were born. There are numerous verses like this in the Scripture which show the doctrine of original sin to be false, and which also teach, either directly or indirectly, the doctrine of an "age of accountability." Let us look at some of them:
Deuteronomy 1:39 speaks of the "little ones" and the "children" who "in that day had no knowledge between good and evil." Isaiah 7:16 speaks of a child coming to an age when he knows to "refuse the evil, and choose the good." Both of these texts speak of children coming to a time in their lives when they have a knowledge of the moral character of their actions and know there is evil which they ought to refuse and good which they ought to choose. Neither of these verses gives a certain age at which moral agency begins. This is because there is no fixed age at which children become accountable, since reason will develop earlier in one child than another according to his gifts and circumstances. But when a child's reason has developed to the point that he knows to "refuse the evil and choose the good," he becomes a moral agent and is accountable for his deeds.
This possession of moral knowledge or understanding is absolutely necessary before there can be accountability. A child must know the moral character of his actions before he can be responsible for them.
Some advocates of original sin have objected that the government of God would be unjust if children were made accountable for their actions at a tender age when they would not be able easily to withstand temptation. They have used this objection as an excuse for maintaining the doctrine of original sin. This kind of logic is absurd. For, according to the doctrine of original sin, children are guilty and under the wrath of God from birth, without any probation. It is hard to understand how the advocates of original sin can swallow whole the injustice of being born in a state of guilt and condemnation, and yet quibble over the supposed injustice of becoming accountable at a tender age. This amounts to swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat (Matthew 23:24).
With God, there can be no such thing as a "tender age" in the sense of an unjust age at which children become responsible. God alone knows and is the judge of when a child reaches the "age of accountability." He alone knows the thoughts and the intentions of the heart. And, knowing that God is just, we know that God will not work unrighteousness in this respect. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). Those who make this objection seem to feel that God cannot be trusted with what is unknown to us. But he can be trusted. God is just in all his judgments. The accountability or non-accountability of every child is perfectly known to God. He "searches the reins and hearts" of all men. He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. He will bring to light the "hidden things of darkness" and judge the "secrets of men" in truth and righteousness.
The advocates of original sin need not fear that God will unjustly make children accountable at too early an age. He can be trusted to judge righteously with the hidden things of the heart. Truth, justice, and equity are the foundations of his throne (I Corinthians 4:5, Revelation 2:23, Hebrews 4:12-13, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Romans 2:15-16).
The Rational Moral Nature of Man
That man is responsible and accountable for his deeds is so obvious that to try to prove it would be something like a teacher of first graders trying to prove to them that the sun exists. The class might well interrupt: "But teacher, we know that the sun exists. See, there it is in the sky."
When God gave the law on Mount Sinai, he did not try to prove first to his people that they were responsible and accountable moral agents. They already knew this because of the testimony of their rational nature. They were as conscious of their responsibility and accountability as they were that the sun existed. The law of God was already written in their hearts before God gave them the law written upon tables of stone. They already knew right from wrong before God said, "Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not." They already had a conscience and knew themselves to be accountable for their deeds before God warned them of judgment for disobedience. They did not need proof of their accountability, for this they had by the constant testimony of their rational moral nature. No one needs the Scripture in order to know right from wrong. Murder, adultery, lying, and stealing are not wrong just because the Scripture says they are wrong. They are wrong by nature. They are wrong because they violate the demands of the rational moral nature with which God created us.
The law that God has given us is not arbitrary or imposed; it is declaratory. God has declared to us the same law that is revealed in our nature, the same law that is written in our hearts, a law that harmonizes with our nature, necessities, and relations as moral beings. Had God given us a law that contradicted our nature--had he commanded us to be selfish, to work evil to our neighbor, to lie, steal, and hate our fellow man--we would all know by the testimony of our rational, moral nature that such a law was wrong and unjust. It is only because the law of God does agree with the law written in our hearts that we can and do judge it to be a just and righteous law.
This agreement between the rational moral nature of man and the teachings of the Scripture gives compelling testimony to the truth of the Scripture. Men do not need to have proved to them that the Scripture is divinely inspired anymore than they need someone to prove that the sun exists. Their own moral nature is in such agreement with the holy teachings of the Scripture, that it is a battle for wicked men to resist and smother the convictions they have when they hear the preaching of God's Word.
The Scripture and Man's Rational Moral Nature
If the Scripture taught things which were out of harmony with man's rational moral nature, and if the Scripture taught things which the constitution of our nature as created by God forced us to reject as false, unjust, or impossible, we would have irresistible convictions that it was not the Word of God, and it would be impossible for us to rationally believe it.
It is because the Scripture is in harmony with man's rational moral nature and his knowledge of truth and reality that men have compelling convictions that it is the Word of God. It is so in harmony with the revelation and convictions given to us by our nature, it describes us so faithfully--our moral relations, our lost condition, and our necessity as lost sinners--that we have compelling evidence that it is not a man-made book, but is divinely inspired.
Christians are not gullible because they believe the Scripture. They are reasonable and rational. They are living in accordance with the testimony of their rational moral nature, which affirms that the Scripture is in harmony with truth, justice, and reality, and is therefore from God, just as it says it is.
On the other hand, those who refuse to believe the Scripture are irrational. They are rejecting the testimony of their rational, moral nature which affirms the truth of the Scripture. The impenitent sinner is not impenitent because his reason does not testify to him of the truth of God's Word; he is impenitent because he refuses to listen to reason. He does not want to repent, submit himself to God, and obey his Word. Both sin and unbelief are a voluntary resistance and abuse of the dazzling moral light given to man in his moral nature.
If the Scripture were in manifest contradiction to reason, no man could believe it without being irrational. But when we look into the mirror of our nature and see the exact same image pictured there as is pictured for us in the Scripture, we know that the Scripture is the Word of God. If the image in the mirror of our nature were different than that pictured in the Scripture, we would know that the Scripture was false and not the Word of God. However, our nature agrees in every aspect with the revelation given to us in the Scripture. This harmony between the Scripture and our own moral nature is supernatural. The harmony is so complete, so exact, and so faithful--it mirrors man's nature and condition so faithfully--that such a harmony would be impossible upon any other supposition than that the Scripture is indeed a supernatural book, inspired by God.
Temptation: The Occasion to All Sin
If the doctrine of original sin is true, the devil is in complete ignorance of it. Or if he is not ignorant of it, he is dumb enough to go to the trouble of tempting men for nothing. Would the devil tempt men if he knew that they had a sinful nature which would make them sin without being tempted? How foolish and ignorant the devil must be. If the doctrine of original sin is true, then Jesus and the inspired writers lived in complete ignorance of it, as well. Jesus exhorted his followers to watch and pray that they not enter into temptation, and he taught them to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (Matthew 6:12; 26:41).
His Apostles, in their writings, exhorted the believers to be on their guard against the snares of the devil, lest they be tempted and fall into sin (I Peter 5:8-9, Ephesians 6:11-12). These would have been useless exhortations if all Christians have a sinful nature which makes them sin without being tempted. In fact, if the doctrine of original sin is true, Jesus and the inspired writers lived under a complete cloud of ignorance. Instead of ascribing the sins of mankind to a physical connection with Adam, they ascribed them to a moral connection with the tempter--the devil. They spoke of sinners as being children of the devil and as being of their father the devil (I John 3:8-10, John 8:44, Acts 13:10). They spoke of the sins of mankind as being the work of the devil and of sinners becoming sinners by the agency of the devil (Matthew 13:38-39). They spoke of Christ as coming to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8). Finally, they spoke of the sinner as being a captive of the devil, who needed to recover himself out of the devil's snare (II Timothy 2:26). It is hard to understand how they could have been so far off the track if the doctrine of original sin were true.
The Scripture teaches nothing about an inherited sinful nature from Adam. It teaches only that all men are tempted and that they sin when they yield to their own desires rather than obey the Law of God and reason. The scripture says we are born with "corruptible seed" (1 Peter 1:23), not corrupted seed. Our seed gets corrupted spiritually by disobeying the Law of God, and physically by time (1 Peter 1:24).
Proof texts used to support the doctrine of original sin
1. Psalm 51:5 "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
The language of this text is not literal, it is figurative. Both context and reality demand a figurative interpretation of this text. For example, let's compare Psalm 51:5 with Job 1:21. If Psalm 51:5 can be interpreted literally to teach the doctrine that David and all other men are born sinners, then Job 1:21 can be interpreted literally to teach the doctrine that Job and all other men will some day go back into their mother's womb.
Job 1:21, "...Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither:"
Neither Psalm 51:5 nor Job 1:21 is to be understood literally. They are both figurative expressions. Both context and our knowledge of reality demand a figurative interpretation of these two texts.
David uses figurative language throughout his Psalms. In fact, in the 51st Psalm, verses five, seven, and eight are all figurative expressions. So if verse five can be made to teach that men are born sinners, then verse seven can be made to teach that hyssop cleanses us from sin. Also, verse eight can be made to teach the doctrine that God breaks the Christian's bones when he sins, and that his broken bones rejoice when he is forgiven. Another of David's Psalms, Psalm 58:3, can be made to teach the astonishing doctrine that babies speak from the very moment they are born.
The same rules of interpretation that would permit Psalm 51:5 to teach that babies are born sinners, would, if applied to these passages (or if applied to many other passages in the Scripture), allow for every kind of perversion and wild interpretation of God's Word. David was not teaching in this passage that he was born a sinner. He instead was confessing to God the awful guilt and sinfulness of his heart, and he cried out to God in strong language the language of figure and symbol to express that awful guilt and sinfulness.
This is David's penitential Psalm. He is deeply humbled and repentant for the sins he has committed, and he uses this strong language to confess his wickedness and guilt. But if David wanted God to understand his language to mean that he was a sinner by birth, the whole spirit of the Psalm is contradicted and changed. It is no longer a Psalm of penitence for sin, but it is turned into a Psalm of excuse for sin. For what better excuse could David make for his sins than the excuse that he was born a sinner? But these are not the words of a man making excuses for his sins; these are the words of a man humbled and deeply repentant for having sinned against God.
But if David intended to affirm that he was literally "shapen in iniquity and conceived in sin," then he affirmed absolute nonsense, and he charged his Creator with making him a sinner; for David knew that God was his Maker (Psalm 100:3; 119:73; 139:13-14). It may be objected that God created only Adam and Eve, and that the rest of mankind descended from them by natural generation. But this objection does not relieve the doctrine of an inherited sin nature of its slander and libel of the character of God. For if man has a sinful nature at birth, who is it who established the laws of procreation under which he would be born with that nature? God, of course. There is no escaping the logical inference that is implicit in the doctrine of an inherited sin nature. It is a blasphemous and slanderous libel on the character of God.
But one might as well reject the Scripture out of hand, if he does not want to recognize that God is the Creator of all men. For the fact that God is the Creator of all men is one of the clearest truths taught in the Scripture (Job 31:15; 33:4, Jeremiah 1:5, Malachi 2:10, Ecclesiastes 7:29; 12:1, Genesis 1:26,27; 6:7; 9:6, Psalm 82:6, I Corinthians 11:7, James 3:9, Zechariah 12:1, Acts 17:25,29, Revelation 22:16).
Ecclesiastes 7:29 not only declares that God has created man, but it also affirms that God created man upright. If man is created upright, he cannot be born a sinner; and if he is born a sinner, he cannot be created upright. Either one or the other may be true, but they cannot both be true for the two are contradictories. The very fact that Jesus was a man, descended from Adam, and born with a human nature as we are, shows that men are not born with a sinful nature (I John 4:3, II John 7, Hebrews 2:14,16-18; 4:15, Romans 1:3, Matthew 1:1, Luke 3:38).
The very idea that men can be born sinners is absurd. It is both a physical and a moral impossibility to be born a sinner. It is a moral impossibility because men cannot justly be sinners by birth. That men can be sinners and guilty and condemned at birth is morally unthinkable.
It is a physical impossibility to be born a sinner because of the nature of sin. Sin is not a substance. It has no physical properties and cannot possibly be passed on physically from one person to another. What is sin? The Scripture says, "Sin is the transgression of the law." (1John 3:4). So, according to the Scripture, sin is an act or a choice that transgresses the law of God. It cannot, therefore, be a substance because choice and substance are contradictories. Is a wicked act a substance? Is disobedience, transgressions, lawbreaking, or unrighteousness a substance? Is guilt a substance? No, they are all moral concepts or moral qualities. And it is impossible for them to be transmitted physically. When we speak of sin, we are describing the character of an act. The word sin describes the character of an act as being wicked or wrong.
Sin is no more a substance than friendliness, goodness, or virtue are substances. If sin is a substance that can be transmitted physically, then virtue also must be a substance that can be transmitted physically. And what would be the result if all this were true? Why, sinners would beget sinners, and saints, of course, would beget saints!
To interpret this text literally violates two fundamental rules of sound scriptural interpretation. The first one is the rule that a text must not be interpreted in such a way as to contradict the clear teachings of the Scripture in other parts. The Scripture is the word of God, and so it is only reasonable that each part should maintain a unity, harmony, and agreement with every other part. God is not the God of confusion and contradiction. There is unity and agreement throughout his Word.
A literal interpretation is also inconsistent with the figurative and symbolic language used throughout this Psalm. To arbitrarily give a literal meaning to this one verse, without giving a literal meaning to the other symbolic expressions in this Psalm, shows an inconsistency in interpretation that can only be explained by a prepossessed belief in the doctrine of original sin.
The second rule that it breaks is the rule that a text must not be interpreted in such a way as to contradict reality. We should forever remember that the Scripture does not teach nonsense. It does not teach that God breaks our bones when we sin (Psalm 51:8). It does not teach that broken bones rejoice (Psalm 51:8). It does not teach that our sins are purged with hyssop (Psalm 51:7). It does not teach that babies speak and tell lies as soon as they are born (Psalm 58:3). It does not teach that men go back into their mother's womb (Job 1:21). And it does not teach that the substance of unborn babies is sinful (Psalm 51:5). These are all figurative expressions, and to interpret them in their literal sense is to teach nonsense and what every man knows to be impossible and contrary to reality.
The nature of sin, the nature of justice, and the nature of God are such that it is impossible for men to be born sinners. First, sin is voluntary. Is it a sin to be born with blue eyes, black hair, a small nose, or large ears? Is it a sin to be born short or tall? Is it a sin to be born at all? No, because we have no choice in the matter of our birth. Our birth, and everything we are and have at birth, is ours completely involuntarily. Second, sin is not a substance. It has absolutely no material or physical properties. Sin is an act, and so it is impossible for it to be passed on physically. Third, sin is a responsible choice. Newborn babies are not responsible. They do not know the difference between right and wrong, and so cannot be responsible. A child has no moral character at birth. Moral character can only belong to a child when he has come to know the difference between right and wrong. A child must first reach the "age of accountability" before he can sin (Isaiah 7:16, Deuteronomy 1:39). Fourth, sin is personal and non-transferable. No man can sin for, or be made guilty for, the sin of another man. Moral character, guilt, and accountability are non-transferable (Ezekiel 18:20, Deuteronomy 24:16).
God's justice makes it morally impossible for men to be born sinners. Is it possible that the infinitely just God could cause men to be born sinners and condemn them to hell for the sin of Adam? Can the perfect justice of God permit him to impute guilt to the innocent or punish the innocent for the guilt of another? Is it really possible that innocent little babies open their eyes in this world under the wrath of God and that they are condemned to the torments of hell for the sin of Adam? Our whole reason revolts at such an idea. Yet this is the incredible dogma that is taught as orthodoxy in Christian churches today!
This doctrine represents God as the most cruel and unreasonable being in the universe. It represents God as condemning and sending men to hell for a nature which they received without their knowledge or consent, and with which God himself created them. According to this doctrine, millions of heathen have been born into this world with a sinful nature and have lived without ever hearing the Gospel; they have sinned necessarily because of the nature with which they were born, and then they have died and gone down into hell without a chance to be saved. What a blasphemous slander this doctrine is upon the character and justice of God!
2. Ephesians 2:3 "And were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
This text is supposed to teach that babies are born with a sinful nature and that they are under the wrath of God because of that nature. But isn't it a monstrous and a blasphemous dogma to say that God is angry with any of his creatures for possessing the nature with which He created them? What? Can God be angry with his creatures for possessing the nature that He himself has given them? Never! God is not angry with men for possessing the nature he has given them, but only for the perversion of that nature. The Scripture represents God as angry with men for their wicked deeds, and not for the nature with which they are born.
The word "nature" in this text has nothing at all to do with what man is by birth. The word nature here refers to the character of contemporary sinners before they were converted. The word nature can be used in two distinct senses. It may refer to what man is involuntarily because of his birth, or it may refer to what man is voluntarily, by choice and apart from birth. The Apostle Paul uses it in the latter sense in the text under consideration. They were not children of wrath by birth. They were children of wrath because of voluntary wickedness. This is evident from the context of Ephesians 2:3. The context shows that Paul did not have his eye on their birth at all when he used the word nature. On the contrary, he had his eye wholly on the conduct of contemporary sinners before they were converted to Christianity. He calls attention in verses one and two to the fact that, before their conversion, they had "walked according to the course of this world," in "trespasses and sins." In verse three, he calls attention to their former fellowship with other sinners in fulfilling the "lusts of the flesh" and "the desires of the flesh and of the mind." And then, summing up the wickedness, the guilt, and the ill-desert of their former life, he says "and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
But to teach from this text that babies are born with a sinful nature, and that they come into this world under the awful wrath of God because of that nature is a shocking doctrine. What? Is God really ready to let loose the terrors of his anger and the consuming fires of his wrath upon innocent little babies for the nature with which they are born? Shame on the church for teaching such an abominable, God-dishonoring doctrine!
Adam and Eve had two natures; yet we know that they were not created with two natures. They had the nature they were created with, which was good and upright, and they also had a sinful nature after they had sinned. It was this last nature, a voluntary nature, which made them "By nature the children of wrath." Men may have a nature in three distinct ways:
- By birth. This is the good and upright nature with which we are all created.
- By having sinned and come short of the glory of God. This is a voluntary nature. It is the nature that makes us enemies of God, children of the devil, and "by nature the children of wrath."
- By being born again (John 3:3). This is also a voluntary nature in which we, by faith, become "partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4).
The word "nature" in the Scripture, when it refers to our birth, never refers to a sinful nature. This is shown in Romans 2:14, which says: "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law..." Now, the word "nature" in this text does refer to the nature we receive at birth. But it is evident that the word "nature" used here is not a sinful nature. For how would a sinful nature ever cause us to "do by nature the things contained in the law"? A sinful nature would not cause us to do the things contained in the law, a sinful nature would only cause us to commit sin! (See Romans 1:26, 27; I Corinthians 11:14; and Romans 2:14, 15, which show that our nature teaches us the differences between right and wrong, but never causes us to do the wrong.)
Romans 1:26, "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:" shows us that women did sinful things with their body. This was "against nature." How could this sinful act go against "nature" if it is in their nature to sin? It can't. These women were going against their upright nature that God gave them, and they chose sin in spite of the upright nature that God gave them.
To maintain that we are born with a sinful nature is to charge God, the Author of our nature, with creating sinners. Men are not "born short of the glory of God." They "sin and come short of the glory of God." Our Lord took on human nature. We know therefore that human nature is not sinful in itself. Finally, that babies are not born with a sinful nature and are not "children of wrath" by birth is evident from what Jesus said of them: "For of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16).
3. Job 14:4 "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one."
This text is supposed to teach that sinful parents will bear sinful children. But this is to completely ignore its context, which shows that Job had his eye wholly on the frail and dying state of man, and not at all upon his moral state (Job 14:1-6). The whole sense of what Job was saying was that no one can bring other than frail and dying offspring from frail and dying parents. To arbitrarily force this text to teach something that is completely foreign to its context can only be another example of an interpretation dictated by a prepossessed belief in the doctrine of original sin.
If this text teaches that a sinner invariably produces another sinner, it teaches blasphemy. For if the doctrine of original sin is true, then Mary, the mother of our Lord, was born a sinner. So if Job 14:4 really does teach that a sinner must produce another sinner, there could be no way of escaping the blasphemous conclusion that our Lord also was born a sinner.
4. Job 15:14 "What is man that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?"
It should first be said that these are the words of Eliphaz and so cannot be quoted as inspired truth. God himself testified that Eliphaz did not speak the truth (Job 42:7). But suppose we did accept this verse as inspired truth, what does it teach? It certainly teaches nothing about a morally depraved physical constitution. It merely implies the sinful condition of all mankind, without saying anything about how men got that way.
But again, this text, like the last, if used to teach the constitutional sinfulness of men, would teach the blasphemy that our Lord Jesus was born a sinner; because he was a man and was born of a woman.
5. Job 25:4, "How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?"
Again, these are the words of Bildad the Shuhite, and so cannot be quoted as inspired truth. God himself testified that Bildad did not speak the truth (Job 42:7). So this fact alone should be grounds to dismiss these verses in Job as teaching Original Sin. If God himself said these men did not speak His Truth, then nobody has the right to teach these verses as God's Truth. And if these men in the book of Job are teaching Original Sin, and God said they did not teach His Truth, then Original Sin is not God's Truth!
6. Romans 5:12, 18, 19 "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned...Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous."
This passage is interpreted by those who believe in the doctrine of original sin to mean that because Adam sinned, men are now born sinners; that is, they become sinners involuntarily and necessarily by inheriting a sinful nature from Adam. On the contrary, Romans 5:14 teaches that Adam's sin was not the sin of his descendants: "Them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." This shows that Paul did not consider the sin of Adam to be their sin.
To interpret the phrase "made sinners" to mean that men are born sinners and become sinners involuntarily and necessarily by receiving a sinful nature from Adam, is a forced and inconsistent interpretation of this passage; for this passage not only says that all men are "made sinners" because of Adam's transgression, it also says that all men are "made righteous" by the obedience of Christ, and that the free gift of life "came upon all men" by Christ Jesus. So, for the advocates of the doctrine of original sin to arbitrarily give to the phrases "made sinners" and "came upon all men" the meaning of physical force and physical necessity when these phrases refer to Adam's sin, without giving the same meaning to them when they refer to Christ's righteousness, is once again an example of a forced and inconsistent interpretation dictated by a prepossessed belief in the doctrine of original sin.
Paul does not affirm an involuntary, necessary, or irresistible connection between either the sin of Adam and mankind, or the righteousness of Christ and mankind. Otherwise, verse 18 would teach the universal salvation of mankind: "The free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." We know that universal salvation is not taught in the Scripture. Men are not saved involuntarily, automatically, and necessarily because of the obedience of Christ. Nor are they "made sinners" involuntarily, automatically, and necessarily because of the transgression of Adam. But the context shows that men are "made sinners" in the same way that they are "made righteous," that is, voluntarily or willingly.
Look at Romans 5:18,19 and 21 again carefully. In verse 18, Paul compares the judgment that came upon all men because of Adam with the free gift of life that came upon all men because of Christ, and says "as" the one, "even so" the other. In verse 19, he compares the way the many were "made sinners" with the way the many were "made righteous," and says "as" the one, "so" the other. And in verse 21, he compares the reign of sin through Adam's transgression with the reign of grace through Christ's righteousness, and says "as" the one, "even so" the other. The context and language of this passage require that we understand the connection between Adam's sin and the sins of the rest of mankind to be moral and voluntary instead of physical and involuntary.
Paul did not teach that men are "made righteous" involuntarily through Christ, nor did he teach that men are "made sinners" involuntarily through Adam. He did not teach that sin is a substance that dwells in the flesh. He did not teach that sin is inherited from Adam through "natural generation." He did not teach that we receive a sinful nature from Adam that is the "fountain and cause" of all our "actual" sins. He did not teach that men are born sinners or that sin is transmitted physically from Adam to his descendants. All of this has been the fabrication of man's imagination. Paul's whole message, and only message, in this passage is the message that the power of Adam's transgression to bring sin, death, and condemnation upon all men has been transcended by a much greater power; the glorious, liberating power of God's grace in Christ Jesus, which breaks the power of sin and brings justification, righteousness, and life upon all men (Romans 5:15-21).
1. We know from observation that babies are born with a sinful nature, because they fuss and scream, refuse to eat, go into a rage, throw tantrums, etc.
Answer: But we know that babies fuss and scream, refuse to eat, and throw tantrums before they know the difference between right and wrong. Do those who advocate the doctrine of original sin want to advance the argument that an inherited sin nature makes little babies sin before they even know what it is and before they know that they are sinning? This makes sin such a completely necessary, involuntary, and impersonal thing that there could never be any blame or guilt for it. If it is true that little babies sin because of a sinful nature and before they even know they are sinning, then it follows that they are completely automated and that their sin is completely necessary, involuntary, and impersonal. If all this were true, you could no more blame sinners for being sinners than you could blame a clock for striking the hour, something it does impersonally, involuntarily, and necessarily because it was built to do so.
But babies fuss and scream, refuse to eat, throw tantrums, etc., not because of a sinful nature, but in response to pain and discomfort, the likes and dislikes of appetite, and the urges and desires of the sensibility. True, they do things which we think are selfish and sinful, and things which would in fact be selfish and sinful if they did them knowing them to be wrong. But while they have no knowledge of right and wrong, their actions have no moral character, and therefore their actions are not and cannot be "sinful." It is only when a child's reason has developed and he has a clear understanding of right and wrong (an understanding of his accountability and the moral nature of his actions) that he becomes a moral agent and is responsible and accountable for his actions.
2. We know from observation that sin is inherited because we see children inherit the sinful traits of their parents.
Answer: Children do inherit physical traits from their parents, but they do not and cannot inherit moral traits or sin from their parents. Children only appear to inherit the moral traits of their parents. The whole home environment, with the continual example of parents and other family members, has an enormous influence upon a child's behavior; and it would be astonishing if children did not seem to inherit the moral traits of their parents, whether good or bad.
But those who will insist that the moral traits of the parents are inherited by the children must answer the questions: Why is it that many children "inherit" traits that are the exact opposite of their parents? Why is it that brothers and sisters in the same family will have moral traits the exact opposite of each other? Is the "inheritance" of sinful traits a hit or miss thing? The answer is that there is no such thing as inheritance of sinful traits. And, of course, we know that it is impossible to inherit either the good or bad moral traits of parents. There is nothing physical about sin; sin is a voluntary and personal act, and is non-transferable.
3. But why is it always easier to sin than to do good? And why is it that all men do in fact sin? Doesn't this show that men are born with a sinful nature?
Answer: First, this objection assumes that since it is so easy to sin, and since sin is universal, this has to be explained by an inherited sin nature. But the Scripture gives another explanation for the universal existence of sin: universal temptation.
But why is it so much easier to sin than to do good? It has always been easier to sin than to do good. Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature, but they sinned just as easily as any of their descendants. What was it that caused them to sin so easily? It was not a sinful nature, it was temptation. Adam and Eve were tempted and they sinned so easily, so naturally, so spontaneously that it would almost seem that they had a "sinful nature" before they sinned.
It has always been easier to sin than to resist temptation. James 1:12 says, "Blessed is he that endureth temptation." Hebrews 2:18 says, "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted," and Hebrews 12:4 says, he "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
Christ "suffered" under temptation, not because of a sinful nature, but because resisting and overcoming temptation involves suffering. Adam and Eve did not resist temptation. That is why they sinned so easily. They took the easy way of pleasure and self-indulgence, which is always easier than the path of obedience to God.
But if the fact that it is easier to sin than to do right implies that men are born with a sinful nature, we would be left with the unscriptural conclusion that both Adam and Christ had sinful natures. Adam, because he sinned so easily, naturally, and spontaneously; and Christ, because it was necessary for him to "endure," "suffer," "resist," and "strive" to overcome sin.
James tells us how all men are tempted. "But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death" (James 1:14-15). James explains here that all men are tempted through the desires of their sensibility. These constitutional desires and appetites are not sinful in themselves. They are merely the occasion to temptation, and it is only when they are gratified contrary to the law of God and reason that they become sinful. Adam and Eve had them before they sinned, or they could not have been tempted. Christ had them, or he was not a man and could not have been tempted as other men. But the Scripture affirms that Christ was a man and that he was tempted in all points as other men, and yet without sin: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).
Sin is universal, not because of an inherited sin nature, but because temptation is universal, and, because when men are tempted, they choose to indulge their own desires, rather than obey the law of God written in their hearts.
4. But if men were not born sinners, it might be possible for someone to live their whole life absolutely free from sin, and they would not need to be saved by Christ, but could be saved by their works.
Answer: This objection reveals the sinister and ungodly nature of the original sin dogma. What does this objection imply? It implies that it would be criminal, wicked, and sinful for anyone to live a life without sin. It implies that men ought to be born with a sinful nature, lest it be possible for someone to live a life without sin! It implies that God wants men to be depraved sinners, that he wants them to be born with a sinful nature so that he can have the honor and glory of saving them. It implies that it would be impudence, arrogant pride, and high treason against God to live a life in humble obedience to God and never rebel against him. It implies that God would be insulted and dishonored if someone obeyed God all his life and never sinned against him. It implies that to please and glorify God we must be forced to displease and dishonor him.
In a word, it implies that it would be sinful to be free to obey God. And why? Because if we were free to obey God, someone might do it and would not need to be saved. What logic! But this is an example of the type of reasoning that must be resorted to in order to defend the dogma of original sin. But we have already seen that if men are not free, and if they sin by a necessity of their nature, they cannot be responsible for their actions and their actions cannot have moral character anymore than a gun that is used to commit murder can have moral character.
What? A man who must sin necessarily because of an inherited sin nature responsible and guilty for what he cannot avoid? If it were true that we were born with a nature that deprived us of the liberty and ability to obey God (which is the doctrine of Augustine and original sin), if it were true that we were born with a nature that made us disobey God, and if it were true that we were created by God under a law that made us by nature sinners and rebels, we could never in justice be blamed or punished for our sins. If we were unable by nature to obey God, sin would not be a crime, but rather a calamity. Words in the Scripture like pardon and mercy would have no meaning. God would be cruel and a tyrant for condemning the unfortunate sinner to hell for what he could not avoid. The offer of mercy and pardon to the sinner would be an insult. The truth is that the doctrine of natural inability to obey God makes all the doctrines of the Scripture absurd and irrational.
But the objection we are considering both assumes and demands that men be born with the natural inability to obey God, and it imputes the onus of pride, self-righteousness, and even the despising of God's gracious plan of salvation to the person who will not swallow all the absurdities of the original sin dogma. One form of this objection is put in the following insinuating question: "So you think that a person is able to live his whole life without sinning and that he can be saved by his good works?" But the stigma of pride and self-righteousness does not belong to the one who rejects the dogma of original sin, for to recognize and admit that one is the author of his own sins, that he is guilty for them, and that he is worthy of being sent to hell for them is not self-righteousness, nor is it despising God's gracious plan of salvation. It is just the opposite. It is humbling one's self in view of the guilt of one's sins, and it is acknowledging one's need of God's mercy and salvation in view of one's deserved punishment for his sins.
How ridiculous and absurd, then, is the objection that "men cannot be free and able to obey God, because if they were able, there would always be the possibility that someone might do it and would not need to be saved"! How foolish is the notion that God would be insulted, profoundly humiliated, and his government subverted and overturned if men could and did obey him! What supreme foolishness is the objection that "Someone might possibly live his whole life without sin." What! Would it really be a sin to not sin? Would it be wicked to be free and have the ability to obey God? Would God be insulted, dishonored, and confounded if someone in his kingdom lived all his life without sinning against him? Would he consider it a catastrophe of the first magnitude if someone actually did love and obey him perfectly from the cradle to the grave? It is impossible! God does not have that kind of character.
5. But Paul taught that the flesh is sinful and that sin dwells in the flesh. He spoke of "sin that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:17). He said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing" (Romans 7:18). And he spoke of "sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:23).
Answer: It is true that Paul uses language in these texts that appears to teach the doctrine of a sinful, physical constitution. But the language that Paul uses is not literal; it is figurative. When the Apostle speaks of the flesh in the sense of being sinful, he is never speaking of the flesh in its literal or physical sense. This is evident from the following verses in Romans (Romans 7:5; 8:8-9).
Paul teaches in these verses that the Christian is no longer "in the flesh." This makes it clear that when Paul spoke of the "flesh" in the sense of sin, he was not referring to the physical flesh, because if he were, the only way that we could no longer be "in the flesh" would be to no longer be in the body. But Paul was not teaching some strange new doctrine that Christians were now disembodied spirits. He was rather teaching that they were no longer living to gratify their fleshly desires. They were no longer living in sin.
Our flesh and our bodies are not sinful in themselves, but they can be the occasion to temptation, and we can give in to temptation and present our bodies as instruments to sin, but it is we ourselves, living in our bodies, who are sinful or righteous, according to the use we make of our bodies (Romans 6:12,13,19; 12:1; I Corinthians 6:12, 15, 19, 20).
Paul did not condemn the flesh of man. He did not, in any way, condemn the physical nature of man. This is evident because he thought of our Lord Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, as a real man with human flesh. He believed in the resurrection and a life in the body afterwards. He taught that the body of man is properly the temple of the Holy Ghost, and that the body is an offering acceptable and holy to God when consecrated to his service. He taught, also, that the body is an instrument of righteousness for the Christian. And finally, he said that those who are now new creatures in Christ Jesus are no longer "in the flesh," making us understand that when he condemned the flesh and spoke of it in a derogatory way, he was not speaking of the physical flesh. Paul uses the word "flesh" to mean something very different from the physical flesh. He uses it to speak of the sinful condition of men who are completely given over to worldly and fleshly desires. And the fact that he uses the word "flesh" to speak of a past state for the Christian, telling the Christian that he is no longer "in the flesh," shows that he is not speaking of the "flesh" in its literal, physical sense (Romans 7:5; 8:8-9).
The Apostle Paul uses this kind of figurative language throughout his epistle to the Romans. He personifies both sin and grace in Romans 5:21, and has both sin and grace reigning at different times. He has the believer crucified and dead with Christ in Romans chapter six, and then in the same chapter, he has the believer resurrected to new life after his death and burial with Christ. But Paul did not intend for any of this to be understood in a literal or physical sense. The Christian is not literally and physically crucified with Christ. He does not literally die. He is not literally buried with Christ. Nor is he afterwards literally raised from the dead. Paul was speaking of spiritual realities and not physical realities here, and he uses the language of figure to express these spiritual realities. And so, likewise in the verses that speak of sin dwelling in his members (Romans 7:17,18,23), Paul is using figurative language and does not at all mean to teach the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness.
We know that sin is not something that lives or has personality. We know that sin is a wicked choice or a wicked act committed by the sinner. It is an act or a choice that transgresses God's law and, apart from the sinner who commits the act or makes the choice, sin does not exist. Therefore, when the Scripture speaks of sin as if it existed with a personality all its own and was living and dwelling and reigning in the body of the sinner, we know that the language is figurative. Its meaning is that the sinner is a slave to his lusts, that he is ruled by his passions and desires. But to teach from such texts that sin is a virus, a physical thing that can be transmitted from parents to offspring, is to ignore reality and the teaching of the Word of God on the nature of sin. Every kind of foolish and superstitious belief can be proved from the Scripture if it is not interpreted according to the demands of context, language, common sense, and reality. (An illustration of this is the passage in Romans 7:24-25, which is wrongly used to teach that the Apostle Paul himself was in bondage to sin at the time he wrote his epistle to the Romans.)
Finally, those who insist that the phrases "sin that dwelleth in me" and "sin which is in my members" speak of a literal, physical fact, to be consistent, must interpret all the language of chapters 6, 7, and 8 of Romans as literal, physical fact. They must, to be consistent, teach that the Christian literally is "not in the flesh," that is, they must teach that the Christian has no body and that since the time of his salvation, he has been a disembodied spirit. To be consistent, they must teach that the Christian literally and physically was "crucified with Christ" and was "buried with Christ" and was raised from the dead to live again. And to be consistent, they must teach that all Christians are literally living in dead bodies: "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin..." (Romans 8:10).
But of course, all those who plead for the doctrine of original sin know that these verses are figurative and are used to speak of moral and spiritual changes in the believer. Then why will they not be consistent enough to take the verses in chapter 7 which speak of "sin that dwelleth in me" and "sin which is in my members" as being figurative? It can only be because of a prepossessed belief in the man-made doctrine of original sin.
6. The Scripture says that Levi paid tithes while yet in the loins of his father Abraham (Hebrews 7:9-10). This shows that we sinned in Adam; for we were yet in his loins when he sinned.
Answer: But in what sense did Levi pay tithes while yet in the loins of his father Abraham? It was not in an absolute sense, which would have been impossible, because Levi had no personal existence at the time, but only in a typical sense. The point that the writer to the Hebrews wanted to make was that the Levitical priesthood was inferior to, and superseded by, the priesthood of Christ, who had an unending priesthood "after the order of Melchisedec," and to prove that the Levitical priesthood was inferior to that of Christ, he points out that Levi had descended from Abraham, who, as great as he was, had still paid tithes to Melchisedec, so that Levi also, as a descendant of Abraham (yet in the loins of Abraham when he paid tithes), was also inferior and subservient to Melchisedec and his priesthood. And in this typical sense only, as a descendant of one who had shown he was inferior and subservient to Melchisedec by paying tithes to him, had Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec.
The writer to the Hebrews shows that he is speaking of Levi paying tithes in Abraham in a typical sense by the language he uses. He says, "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham" (Hebrews 7:19). The phrase "as I may so say" is a limiting or qualifying phrase, which means "I could say," or "I might say." The writer to the Hebrews never gave to his statement about Levi any other than a typical sense, otherwise he would not have limited his statement with the words, "And as I may so say..." (Hebrews 7:19).
To teach from this passage that either the good or the evil that our ancestors have done is actually done by us is to wrest this passage from its context and to torture it into teaching utter nonsense. For instance, such an idea would make all the descendants of a Christian automatic Christians if his children were yet in his loins when he believed. Also, it would seem to make all the descendants of one who rejects the Gospel automatic unbelievers for coming out of the loins of an unbelieving father.
In fact, if this theory is true, every good act of a man or every evil act of a man is counted as done by all of his offspring. But the problem with all of this is that we know that many godly men have had descendants who were enemies of God and vice versa. Abraham is an example of this. The Scripture says that Abraham believed God and that his faith was counted unto him for righteousness, and Abraham is called the father of the faithful because of his faith. But Abraham has had millions upon millions of descendants who have not believed and have been lost. Yet according to the theory under question, all of Abraham's descendants should have been justified by his faith, for they were all yet in his loins when he believed God and was justified. Esau was a descendant of Abraham but God said, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated" (Romans 9:13). God destroyed the children of Israel (who were descendants of Abraham) in the wilderness for their unbelief, even though they were "yet in the loins of Abraham" when he believed.
The problems with this nonsensical theory multiply when you realize that everyone of us have been "in the loins" of numerous ancestors going all the way back to Adam. This means that we actually participated in all the good and evil not only of Adam, but also of all our intervening ancestors as well. What an awful lot of good and evil we have done. We have all been busy for thousands of years in the loins of our ancestors doing good and evil!
Now, do we get to pick and choose among our ancestors, choosing the ancestors whose deeds we like most, or must we heap them all together and take what they all have done? I am afraid that to do the latter would make our character quite a confused and conflicting thing. What if some of our ancestors were Christians and others were unrepentant sinners? Would we balance the good ones out against the bad ones and come up with what was left over?
7. But the Scripture does teach that God condemns the children for the sins of the fathers. It says, "I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me" (Exodus 20:5).
Answer: It is true that this text would seem to teach that God condemns the children for the sins of their fathers, but the text itself shows that God does not visit the iniquity of the fathers upon innocent children. It is only upon those children who hate and disobey him that he visits the iniquity of the fathers.
First, we have many direct statements in the Scripture which teach that God does not punish the children for the sins of the fathers. Since we have these statements, they should alert us to the fact that, if there is another scripture that seems to contradict them, somewhere we have either taken the scripture out of its context, or in some other way, misinterpreted it. The following verses of the Scripture teach that God does not punish the children for the sins of their fathers (Ezekiel 8:14,17; 18:2,3,14,17,19,20, Deuteronomy 1:39; 24:16, II Kings 14:6, II Chronicles 25:4).
From the above passages, we know that it is contrary to the character of God to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon those who are innocent. When God said, in Exodus 20:5, that he would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, he was not talking of innocent or godly children. He was talking of wicked and ungodly children who were following the wicked example of their fathers. This is seen directly from the text itself, which says, "unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." The iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate God, and not upon children who are innocent and obedient to God.
Jesus makes the amazing statement in Matthew 23:31-35 that the scribes and Pharisees would be guilty of all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the righteous blood of Abel right on down to the righteous blood of Zacharias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar. Now, the scribes and Pharisees did not actually slay Zacharias the son of Barachias, but they had the heart of a murderer, and in a few short days they crucified the Son of God. The man who willfully takes the life of another man is giving tacit approval to every murder that has ever been committed or that ever will be committed. The rapist gives his approval to every act of rape committed, just as much as if he had committed those acts. And Jesus taught the compounded guilt of those children, who, knowing the guilt of their fathers, go on and break the same commandments. To commit the sins of our fathers is to justify their sins. It is to give tacit approval to their wickedness, and so to justly deserve that the iniquity of our fathers should be visited upon us. God never visits the iniquity of the fathers upon those who are innocent. God is just and so cannot condemn the children for the sins of their fathers, except when they willfully follow the wicked example of their fathers.
8. But God can condemn the whole human race for the sin of Adam if he wants to. God is sovereign and can do anything he wants.
Answer: It is true that God is sovereign, but it is not true that he is sovereign in the grotesque sense in which the advocates of original sin make him out to be. To say that God is sovereign in the sense that he can work injustice, unrighteousness, and sin is to slander the holy name of God.
The idea that God's sovereignty gives him the liberty to work unrighteousness is blasphemous and contrary to scripture: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18:25). God is not sovereign, and has never claimed to be sovereign, in such a grotesque sense. But the doctrine of the above objection is that God can do what all men know to be unjust; that is, condemn the whole human race for the sin of one man, and still be just and righteous because he is sovereign. It is unbelievable that Christians, in order to defend the doctrine of original sin, would so demean the character of God.
Those who heartily believe in the doctrine of original sin and believe that God condemned the whole human race for the sin of Adam "because he is sovereign and can do whatever he wants to" must have about the same concept of God as the heathen had of their false gods. They must fear him because he is sovereign and has infinite power over them. However, it must be difficult to love him with the overflowing love that comes from a confidence and a delight in his moral perfections, since they believe a doctrine that requires them to make the excuse that "God can do anything he wants because he is sovereign."
God cannot make evil become good and good become evil by a sovereign decree. He is not sovereign in the sense that his "might makes right." He cannot make a law that says, "Thou shalt lie, steal, blaspheme my holy name, commit adultery, work evil, and hate your fellow man." God is sovereign, but he cannot do anything sinful or unjust just "because he is sovereign." The universal law of love and righteousness is his law as much as it is the law of all his creatures. God does not make evil right by an arbitrary decree, and for him to sovereignly decree a law which were contrary to his nature and the nature of his creatures would be as much sin in him as it would be in any of his creatures. God cannot and will not sin against the righteousness of his nature. He will not put darkness for light, falsehood for truth, evil for good, or unrighteousness for righteousness.
To defend the obvious unrighteousness of the original sin dogma by saying that "God can do whatever he wants because he is sovereign" is to demean the holy name of God. The doctrine of original sin is infinitely dishonorable to God. It makes him arbitrary, tyrannical, unjust, and cruel in his sovereignty. God has never claimed to be sovereign in an arbitrary sense, in the sense that he can do whatever he wills, even if it is unholy, unjust, or unrighteousness. God is sovereign, and justly so, because all his ways conform to truth, holiness, and righteousness.
9. You depend too much on reason. You should only use the Scriptures to prove the doctrines of the Scripture. If you depend on reason, you will be led into error.
Answer: Would the advocates of the doctrine of original sin object to reason if the doctrine of original sin were reasonable? Why do the advocates of original sin object to reason? It is because the dogma of original sin contradicts reason! If our reason told us that it would be just for a whole race to be condemned for the sin of one man, would they then object to reason? If our reason told us that the heathen could justly be born sinners, commit sin because of an inborn sin nature, die in their sins without a knowledge of the gospel and a chance to be saved, and then be justly condemned to the everlasting punishment of hell, would they then object to reason? If our reason told us that moral character or sin, with its guilt and condemnation, could be passed on in the physical constitution of man, would they then object to reason? If our reason told us that a non-moral and non-personal entity called "flesh" could, contrary to its nature, take on personality and moral character and be sinful, would they then object to reason? No. They object to reason because they know the original sin dogma is absurd and unreasonable.
In regard to using only the Scriptures to prove the doctrines of the Scripture, almost any false doctrine can be proved by quoting texts from the Scripture, if those texts are quoted without paying attention to context and language. We can confirm this fact by pointing to the many false cults which appeal to Scripture texts in order to verify their false teachings. So, should we object to reason when it tells us that a doctrine cannot be true that is supported by proof-texts from the Scripture which have been taken out of context, and which are used without any regard to literal or figurative language or the general theme of the passage from which they are taken, and which then "prove" a doctrine that directly contradicts many other clear texts and fundamental doctrines of the Scripture? Must we throw out reason when we come to the Scripture? Is there something inherently evil about the faculty of reason? Are ordinary common sense and the understanding that God has given us to be despised and rejected when we come to the Scripture? No! The Scriptures never require us to believe anything which the constitution of our own nature as created by God forces us to reject as false, unjust, or impossible. The fundamental truths of Christianity cannot be in manifest contradiction to reason, and yet the original sin dogma does contradict reason and man's irresistible convictions of justice.
10. In the Scripture, the word "sin" in the singular refers to a sin principle that dwells in us, or to original sin; and the word "sins" in the plural refers to "actual sins" that flow from the sin principle we have inherited from Adam.
Answer: Some advocates of original sin try to make out a distinction in the Scripture between "sin" in the singular and "sins" in the plural. According to them, the word sin in the singular refers to the "sin principle," the "Adamic sin nature," "inbred sin," or "original sin," but the word "sins" in the plural refers to the acts of sin that flow from the "Adamic nature" or the "principle of sin" that dwells in man's flesh. This distinction between "sin" in the singular and "sins" in the plural is completely artificial and unscriptural. There is no mention of such a distinction in the Scripture.
There is a scriptural sense in which sin is and must be a principle. It is a principle because it flows from a single ruling choice of the heart or will (Romans 7:17,23; 8:2,6,7,10). Both Jesus and the Apostles taught that there can only be one ruling choice of the heart or will at a time. If the choice or principle that controls the life is selfishness, all the volitions and acts of the life will be selfish. If the ruling choice of the heart is love to God and others, all the volitions and acts of the life will be virtuous. Two opposing choices or principles cannot control the life at the same time. One must be given up for the other. "No man can serve two masters." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). The following verses of the Scripture teach the truth that all the acts of men proceed from one single governing choice of the heart, and that, therefore, there cannot be a divided or partial service to God (Matthew 6:22-24; 7:17,18; 12:33-35, James 2:10; 3:11, 12, Luke 16:10).
All sin and all virtue flow from the fountainhead of the heart or will. When the heart is committed to the supreme and ultimate choice of selfishness, all the outworkings of that one ruling choice will be to gratify self in the various forms that selfishness may take. A selfish person cannot please or obey God because all his acts, even though many may be outwardly righteous, are motivated by a heart consecrated to self. Paul said, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:7-8). The "carnal mind" in this passage is speaking of a ruling preference of the heart that is carnal, selfish, or sinful. While a man has a "carnal mind" it is impossible for him to obey God, please God, or do anything good.
All sin is a unit and all virtue is a unit that flows from one supreme and ultimate choice of the will. There cannot be two opposite choices ruling the life at the same time. There cannot be a mixed or a partial consecration and service to God. There can only be one single governing choice of the heart; either love to God and others rule the life, or selfishness rules the life.
Many people in the churches today are deceived on this point. They believe that God can and does accept a partial consecration of their life to him. but God will accept nothing less than a total dedication of ourselves to him, according to our knowledge of his will (James 2:10; Luke 14:26,27,33). Anything less than a total dedication of what we know to be the will of God is motivated by selfishness, and "if therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness" (Matthew 6:23).
11. The doctrine of original sin has been believed by the Church for almost 2000 years. How could you and a few others be right, and everyone else be wrong?
Answer: This objection is considered by many to be conclusive "How could the Church be in error for almost 2000 years? How could you be right and everyone else be wrong?"
The multitudes have been wrong before while the few have been right, and the Church has been wrong before, protecting and giving sanction to error while resisting and persecuting the few who have proclaimed the truth. Copernicus and Galileo are well-known examples of this. Galileo taught the truth that the sun does not go around the earth, but that the earth goes around the sun, and that the earth spins upon its axis, giving the illusion that the sun is going around the earth. But even though he taught the truth, the church resisted it and persecuted him because from the second century A.D. on, the church had believed the theory of Ptolemy that the earth was the unmoving center of the universe, and that the sun moved around the earth. Copernicus had already proven that the theory of Ptolemy was wrong, but the church rejected his proof because it did not fit in with what it had believed for 1400 years. Galileo then constructed a telescope and was able to demonstrate that Copernicus was right and that Ptolemy had been wrong all those 1400 years. Instead of saying, "Thank you for correcting our wrong beliefs," the Church promptly put Copernicus' work on its index of prohibited books and warned Galileo to abandon his opinions and to abstain from teaching, defending, or discussing them anymore. Galileo invited some scientists and members of the Catholic clergy to look into his telescope and prove for themselves that what he had said was the truth, but some of them refused because they were afraid that their beliefs would be proven wrong. Galileo was persistent and wrote a book proving the falseness of the view which had been held by the Church for 1400 years. This brought him under the wrath of the church. His book was banned by the church, he was tried and found guilty by the Church Inquisition, he was compelled to recant of all his Copernican doctrines, and he spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest. It was 200 years later, in 1835, that the works of Copernicus and Galileo were finally removed from the Church's index of prohibited books.
So the idea that the many are always right, and the few are always wrong is false and invalid. If the argument that "the many must be right and the few must be wrong" is valid and conclusive, then Martin Luther and the other Reformers were totally deceived, and the whole Protestant Movement is a false movement built upon error. For Martin Luther and a few other Reformers stood alone against the whole Church to overthrow errors that had been taught and believed for almost 1,500 years. There are other examples, as well. Jesus stood alone against the man-made traditions and prejudiced teachings of the whole Jewish Ecclesiastical Body of the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the High Priests. Also, the idea that the earth was flat and that sailors were in danger of sailing off the edge of the world was a universal belief for hundreds of years.
The idea that "the majority must be right" or that "long held tradition is proof of truth" is not a logical conclusion. And when evidence is presented which shows that a long held view is in error, or that a view held by the majority is in error, it should not be rejected by appealing to the false logic that "a belief held by the majority for a long time is proof of its truth."
12. The Jews believed in the doctrine of original sin at the time of Jesus. They said to the man born blind: "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?" (John 9:34). This verse shows that the doctrine of original sin is true.
Answer: This verse does not teach that there was a belief in the doctrine of original sin at the time of Jesus, nor does it teach that the religious leaders believed in original sin. If anything, it teaches the exact opposite, because if the religious leaders had believed in original sin, they would have been forced to say something like this: "Well, you have as much right to teach us as we do to teach you, since we are all, altogether born in sins." But they were not, in any way, including themselves in this thing of being "altogether born in sins." They were excluding themselves and limiting it only to the man born blind.
What they really were saying was this: "You're a vile, despicable sinner, and you presume to teach us? We are holy and righteous before God and will you who was altogether born in sins presume to teach us?" They were not teaching the doctrine of original sin anymore than David taught it when he said of himself, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." In fact, they meant to say the same thing about the man born blind that David meant to say about himself. David meant to say that he was a vile and despicable sinner and guilty before God, and they meant to say the same thing about the man born blind. But they, in no way, meant to include themselves with the man born blind and teach that they also were "altogether born in sins."
The above text no more teaches the doctrine of original sin than the question the disciples asked Christ teaches it. "Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Christ answered their question with the words, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents" (John 9:3).
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