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Original Sin

 

Musings About Original Sin

What is the doctrine of original sin?

First: this is a very remarkable doctrine because it tells us that not just one person but the entirety of mankind has been judged to be sinners on the basis of the actions of another.  You are considered guilty because another sinned.  Second: it is remarkable because so many people believe it.  Third: it is the theory that supposedly is the explanation of Romans 5: 12.

Does all Christendom accept this doctrine?

No, many do. Those of the Roman Catholic, Reformed and high protestant churches, greatly influenced by Roman Catholicism, generally do. However, this was not even a doctrine of the Catholic Church until the fifth century.  The Orthodox churches, which have a traceable history and tradition just as long as Catholicism, do not.  They accept the idea of original sin, the first sin of Adam, and believe that the consequences of that sin affected all mankind but deny that mankind is guilty because of Adam.  There are several protestant churches that also deny the guilt aspect.    So the doctrine is certainly not unanimous and does not date back to the first century.

 

How did this supposedly come about?  

One might think that a doctrine of such great import would have been mentioned in the Genesis account when the record of the fall and subsequent curse was first given or that our Lord and His Apostles would have guided us into an understanding of the matter, but about 400 years after the Lord ascended to the Father to receive the Kingdom, Augustine of Hippo, caused the teaching to be widely accepted in the west.  True, he was not the first to mention original sin but he was the major player in its acceptance.  Supposedly when Adam sinned his nature was so corrupted that the guilt of this sin was passed on to all mankind at birth.  The mechanism of this is not really explained; for example, we do not know why only the sin of Adam is passed and not of other in our ancestry or why the righteousness of the regenerated is not passed down to their offspring.

How can we come to some judgment about this doctrine?

Test it yourself.  Do not accept this doctrine as orthodoxy until you have examined the following questions:

What does the Genesis record say?

Does God impute the sin of another to a person?

What do the Scriptures say about little children?

What is the meaning of Psalm 51?

What is the meaning of Ephesians- “by nature the children of wrath”?

Are there other theories about Romans 5: 12?

What does the Genesis record say?

God’s original instruction before the fall:

From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.

The curse after the fall:

God said to the serpent:

Because you have done this, Cursed are you than all the cattle and more than every beast of the field: on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life; and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you will bruise Him on the heel.

God said to the woman:

I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be to your husband, and he shall rule over you.

God said to Adam:

Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread; till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Conclusion:  There is nothing that suggests original sin in this account.

Does God impute the sin of one to another person?

The Scriptures speak plainly:

The person who sins will die.  The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity; not will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself.

 Ezekiel 18: 20

Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall the sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.  Deuteronomy 24: 16

Aren’t you glad!  I am!  I don’t want to be held accountable for the sins of another, and I am sure you feel the same way.  Thank God!

 

What do the Scriptures say about little children?

Surprisingly Jesus does not tell us that little children are sinners from birth, on the contrary He says that we must become like them. 

Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Matthew 18: 3

Let the little children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.   Matthew 19: 14

 

What is the meaning of Psalm 51?

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.  Psalm 51: 5

First, we must decide if this passage is literal or figurative.  The Scriptures are written in many different ways.  If taken literally, it says David was born or brought forth in iniquity and that his mother sinned when he was conceived.  If taken figuratively the statement is one of hyperbole, extravagant over- exaggeration to make a point.  The statement is then that David was born into a sinful world.  First: there is nothing in the Scriptures that indicate babies are born sinners; on the contrary there is every indication that when born infants are innocent.  Second: there is no indication that David’s mother sinned when David was conceived.  She was a married woman of good reputation.  Third: we are told that individuals sin when drawn away by their own desires through temptation.  It is a choice.  A newborn infant is not capable of making such a choice.  Fourth: if you are judged to be a sinner though no fault of your own, justice is mocked.  I conclude that the latter meaning is the case.

What is the meaning of Ephesians 2:3?  

And were by nature the children of wrath, even as other.  Ephesians 2: 3

There are two possible interpretations.  First: their innate nature, that with which they were born, is to be children of wrath.  Second: their habitual behavior characterizes them as children of wrath.  Which shall we choose?  Let’s consider Paul’s statement about the Cretans:

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”   Titus 1: 12 

Paul instructed Timothy to reprove the Cretans. Why would you reprove someone who is a lazy liar by birth?  Would you reprove a child for being born crippled?  No, but you would reprove those who are by habit liars, evil and gluttonous.  Is a child born a glutton?  Certainly not.  Even so the Ephesians were children of wrath by their learned acquired behavior. 

 

What is the meaning of Romans 5: 12, 13?

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned for until the Law sin was in the world, and death through sin; but sin is not imputed when there is no law.     Romans 5: 12, 13

In these verses Paul is drawing a contrast between Adam and Jesus.  He states that through one man, Adam, (more accurately one women) sin entered the world, and death came as a result of.  Then he affirms that death spread to all men because all sinned.  Adam’s sin was the occasion by which death came in. He does not say that the guilt of Adam’s sin was passed on to all men.  In fact he says that from Adam to Moses the sin of man was not like the sin of Adam.  They were guilty but the sin of those was not the sin of Adam it was their own sins.  By contrast righteousness entered into the world through the obedience of one, Jesus Christ.  

For as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of One the many will be made righteous.   Romans 5: 19

The verse says that “the many were made sinners” but it does not tell us how this was done.  We can make assumptions about this and indeed there are more than three theories about the mechanism.  We shall look at these theories a little later.  But the verse does state that the many were made sinners by the disobedience of one even so as the many will be made righteous through the obedience of One.  Is one saved automatically because Jesus tasted death for everyone?  No, on the contrary, most will be lost.  There is no universal salvation in the Scriptures.  Even so there is no universal condemnation because of the sin of Adam.  Men become sinners when they are drawn away by their own lust.  When lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it is accomplished brings forth death. 

 

What are the three theories regarding Roman 5?

The three theories are:

 

Why then did Augustine opt for the views he held?

I can only speculate, as I have no special abilities to discern.  You must judge for yourself.

 

Is there any evidence in the Scriptures that God recognizes the early period of life as time when the individual is not accountable or responsible?

Consider the following Scriptures:

He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good.  For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.   Isaiah 7: 15, 16

Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, shall enter there, and I will give it to them, and they shall possess it.   Deuteronomy 1: 39

For though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls.   Roman 9: 11

And the Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.    Genesis 8: 21

But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the law sin is dead.  And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive; and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me.     Romans 7: 8-10

But Jesus said, Let the little children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.    Matthew 19: 14

 

Is there evidence from the Scriptures that man’s nature has been corrupted by Adam’s sin so that man is unable to respond to God?

First:  The Scriptures maintain, even after the fall, God creates the man.  If this is true, then God created man with a corrupted nature.  Psalm 119.73; 100: 3; 82: 6;Job 31: 15; 33:4; Jeremiah 1: 5; Genesis 6: 7; 9: 6; 1 Corinthians 11: 7;James 3; 9; Zechariah 12: 1; Acts 17: 25, 29

Second:  Originally man was created “good” and after the fall he is still made upright.   Genesis 1: 26, 27; Ecclesiastes 7: 29

Third: In the parable of the sower Jesus identifies some of the soil as “good soil”  Matthew 13: 8

Fourth: Various men are spoken of as just and good.   Genesis 6: 9;Job 12: 4;Matthew 1: 19; 5: 45; 8: 5-10; Luke 7: 4 Mark 6: 20; Luke 2: 25; 23: 50;Acts 10:22

 

According to the Scriptures, how does man become a sinner?

  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted and carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.  James 1: 13-15

God is not responsible for sin; neither does He tempt anyone to sin.  Sin comes from being enticed by one’s own lust

 

Was Jesus made like His brethren in all things?

If original sin is true, He was not.  If we were made sinners and Jesus was not, then He was not tempted in every way as we are.  The Scriptures say:

Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.   Hebrews 2: 17

What do the Scriptures say about the sinfulness of mankind?

As it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one.”  Rome 3: 10

We are all sinners, all responsible people.  No one has lived above sin except Jesus our Lord.  We are all guilty and worthy of condemnation.  Thank God that He tasted death for every one; He is the propitiation (satisfaction) for the sins of the whole world.

But we are sinners voluntarily; not that we at all times desired to sin, but we sinned because we were all enticed by our own lust.  We did not become sinners because of Adam’s sin; we cannot blame Adam for our sin because each of us is responsible for his own sin.  Adam’s sin was the occasion by which sin and death entered the world, but we are responsible for our own sin.

According to Augustine how is sin propagated?

Augustine believed that sin is propagated through the sexual union of man and wife.  He saw sexual desire as sin; this lust during procreation was thought to transmit sin.  His view appears to be more Manichean then Christian.  In contrast consider the Scriptures:

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.   Hebrews 13: 4

The desire to eat is not wrong, gluttony is wrong.  The sexual desire is not wrong but fornication is wrong.  The instincts we have are God given.  How we use these instincts is the problem. 

 

Is the idea of original sin, necessary to explain the universality of sin?

Certainly not.  All that is necessary to explain the universality of sin is the universality of desire and pride.   Some angels sinned  before the doctrine of original sin; Adam sinned without original sin.

Other than the inconsistency with the Scriptures, what is your reaction to the doctrine of original sin?

In my mind:

Like all proposed teaching, we must decide for ourselves.  Take the time to think about it and come to your own decision.  The Scriptures alone are authoritative.

God bless.

 

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Last Update   09/26/12