This is the question of “original sin,” and it involves several questions. Are we born:
· Guilty of Adam’s sin?
· Under the wrath of God?
· Without the ability to choose God?
· Are we born with a sin nature?
Even though these questions divide Bible-believing Christians, we cannot ignore them. Too much is at stake:
· It seems to undermine God’s righteousness if He condemns those who had no choice but to reject Him.
· It also seems to undermine the Bible’s teaching about our culpability, if we were born sinners without a chance to come to God.
Because of the weightiness of the stakes, we have to carefully examine the Bible’s teachings about the impact of Adam’s sin and the Fall upon humanity. When we examine Genesis 3, we do not find any explicit evidence for the first four assertions. Instead, we observe the advent of sin and death and banishment from the perfectly sustaining environment, the Garden of Eden.
We don't find any explicit evidence from this account that humanity would now inherit a sin nature or that they are born guilty of Adam’s sin. Certainly, Adam and Eve did not need a sin nature in order to sin. Rather, they willingly sinned.
Even after the Fall, God informed the sinner Cain that he is accountable for his sins, and that he must correct them:
- "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:6-7 ESV)
According to God, Cain was fully responsible for his behavior. Nor did Cain respond:
- God, you really can't blame because it was you who imposed on me a sin nature.
In fact, James warns us against using such an excuse to justify our sin:
- Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God," for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his OWN desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13--15)
God didn’t instill us our evil desires. Instead, we have to take responsibility and flee from them. Nor were we born dead in sin. Instead, James claimed that death only occurs once our own desire gives birth to sin.
Therefore, we should not rationalize our sin, thinking "Adam or my upbringing made me do it." Instead, we have to fully confess our responsibility.
Is it possible that we are born incapable of choosing God and even doing what is right? It seems that Scripture also deprives us of this excuse:
- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18--20)
We are without any excuse for rejecting God. Consequently, we cannot dismiss our guilt for rejecting God:
- I was born with a sin nature. Consequently, it was not possible for me to choose God.
In fact, Israel had many excuses, but they never resorted to this excuse. It was even on their radar. Why not? It must have been unthinkable.
Even ignorance of the law is only a temporary excuse, at best. For one thing, the law is written on every heart (Romans 2:14-16).
For another thing, the law had been recorded in the Mosaic Law. Consequently, after the Israelite had become aware that he had sinned unknowingly, he was not let off the hook. He was still required to sacrifice an animal and to make reparations.
In addition to this, God had often claimed that He had given us everything we needed for blessedness:
· “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:1-4 ESV)
God claimed that there was nothing more He could have done for Israel. Besides, Israel never complained that God had created them to be sinners and had withheld from them the freedom to choose God.
According to Scripture, each one of us is at fault and not God. The consistent message of Scripture is that we deserve His condemnation:
· Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. (Romans 2:1-2)
Lastly, we are without excuse because Jesus brought light into the world and confirmed it through His miracles:
· “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin [of hating Jesus?]. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'” (John 15:22-25)
Also, it seems that we were born free from His wrath and not spiritually dead:
- And I was alive apart from the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died; and the commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death: for sin, finding occasion, through the commandment beguiled me, and through it slew me.” (Romans 7:9-11; 6:16)
Paul, speaking for all humanity, claimed that he had been spiritually “alive” at the time he was born – no indication that he had been born under God’s wrath. Only later did sin spiritually slay him.
The problem verses
Psalm 51:5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
It is impossible to understand this verse literally that David was blaming his mother. Instead, it should be understood hyperbolically. David is merely confessing that he had been sinning from the earliest.
Ephesians 2:3 Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
This verse does not say that we were born “by nature children of wrath.” In keeping with the context, it would seem that we had become “children of wrath.”
Romans 5:18-19 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (also, 1 Cor. 15:22)
These verses are not explicit about how Adam’s sin led to our condemnation and death. In keeping with the parallel Paul draws between Adam and Jesus, it seems best to apply the NT pattern:
Jesus’ Atonement à through our receiving this gift à Justification
Adam’s sin à though our endorsing his sin through our own sin à Death, Condemnation
Paul seems to endorse this parallel between Adam and Jesus:
· Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— (Romans 5:12)
Death came to us because we embraced Adam’s sin through our own sins.
I prefer this understanding because it doesn’t impugn God’s righteousness and places the entire blame on us, where it belongs.
Besides, the skeptic claims:
Besides, the skeptic claims:
· God has no right to judge me for rejecting Him. He had stacked the deck against me.
This challenge gives the skeptic a formidable excuse. I think that, in love, we must deprive him of this unbiblical excuse.