OF ORIGINAL SIN (1)
One of the major doctrines in the religious world today is the doctrine of original sin. This is the teaching that human beings are born with a sinful nature. The Bible teaches in 1 Peter 4:11, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God." Certainly, if we are going to teach anything in religion, it must be what the Bible teaches. We must speak as the oracles or word of God speaks. With this in mind I would like to examine this doctrine in the light of God's word (Psalm 119:105).
As you read this article I hope that you will have the same attitude that the fair-minded Bereans had and search the scriptures to see if what we teach is true (Acts 17:11). We all need to desire to be right with God and if we find that what we have believed about a subject or what we have been taught all our life about a subject conflicts with the Bible, then we must have the attitude of being willing to change our belief to be in harmony with Bible teaching and to please God.
WHAT YOU BELIEVE WILL AFFECT YOUR ATTITUDE AND ACTIONS
Do you believe that you were born with a sinful nature? The answer that you give to this question will affect your attitude toward sin and will ultimately affect your conduct as well, because a person's views on sin cannot help but affect his conduct. If you believe you were born with a sinful nature and that your sins are a result of that sinful nature, you are not likely to view your sins with the seriousness that you should. If you believe you have a nature that makes holiness impossible, you are not likely to be as concerned about sinning against God as you should be. If you believe that God is your Creator and that He created you with a sinful nature, this will necessarily affect your attitude toward God and the justice of God's dealings with human beings.
Are people born with a sinful nature? Our answer to this question is very important, because how we answer it will have a direct bearing on our attitude toward sin, toward God, and toward holy living.
First, I would like to ask...
DOES THE BIBLE
TEACH THAT WE ARE BORN INTO THIS WORLD
We could begin our study by examining the passages of Scripture that those who believe in the doctrine of original sin use to support their belief. But first, I want to examine plain passages of Scripture that teach that human kind is not born with a sinful nature. If these plain passages teach that people are born into this world without a sinful nature, then any interpretation of any passage that contradicts these passages must be understood not to teach that man is born with a sinful nature and must be understood in a way that is in harmony with these plain passages.
Let us begin with what David affirmed in Psalm 119:73: "Your hands have made me and fashioned me." David also wrote, "Know that Yahweh, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;" (Psalm 100:3). In these two passages David affirms that it is God who made us. He made you and He made me. Granted, He uses means (natural procreation) to do this. Nevertheless, the Bible affirms that God made each one of us.
Are we to understand from what David said here that God fashions people into sinners in their mother's wombs? Of course not. All of us know that God does not and cannot create sinners. Yet, upon the supposition that people are born with a sinful nature, these texts could teach nothing else. Who cannot see that the doctrine that men are born sinners charges God with creating sinners? You may object that God created only Adam and Eve, and that the rest of mankind descended from them by natural procreation. But this objection does not relieve the doctrine of an inherited sinful nature of its slander and libel against 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? Was it not God? There is no escaping the logical inference in the doctrine of an inherited sinful nature. It is blasphemous and slanderous libel on the character of God. It charges God with creating sinners.
When the prophet Habakkuk complained that God was not punishing the wicked in his day, he said something that he understood to be the truth concerning God. He said, "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness..." (Habakkuk 1:13). When Habakkuk said that God cannot look on wickedness, he was saying that God cannot tolerate wickedness. If God cannot look on wickedness, how could He create people who have a sinful nature?
The fact that God is the Creator of all men is one of the clearest truths taught in the Bible. Notice the following verses:
The last verse in this list not only declares that God has created man, but it also affirms that God created man upright. The Hebrew word that is translated upright is defined like this:
"An adjective meaning straight, just, right. This word can refer to something physical, such as a path (Psalm 107:7; Isaiah 26:7), but it more often means right in an ethical or an emotional sense, as agreeable or pleasing. Examples of this include what is right in God's eyes (Exodus 15:26; 1 Kings 11:33, 1 Kings 11:38; 2 Kings 10:30); or in the eyes of people (Proverbs 12:15; Jeremiah 40:5). It also means upright, such as God (Psalm 25:8); and His ways (Hosea 14:9-10)." (The Word Study Dictionary).
When one looks at the definitions of this word given above he cannot escape the conclusion that human beings come into this world right or just in God's sight. Now if man is created upright (right in God's sight), he cannot be born a sinner; if he is born a sinner, he cannot be created upright. Either one or the other is true, but they cannot both be true for the two are contradictory. Can you think of an explanation of this passage that would be in harmony with the doctrine of God creating man with a sinful nature? I can't think of one. If the word "upright" means what it means, then there is no way to harmonize this passage with the belief that God created man with a sinful nature.
If God created us with a sinful nature, how could David have truthfully said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." (Psalm 139:14-15). Surely anyone can see that if God made David with an inherited sinful nature, the Holy Spirit would not have directed David to say that he was fearfully and wonderfully made.
When God said that He "created us in his image, and gave us life and breath and all things," are we to understand that he created us with sinful natures? Is the image of God in which we are created sinful? If so, then God is sinful. What person who believes in the God revealed to us in the Bible would affirm that God has a sinful nature? If God created us in His image, then He created us upright, not with a sinful nature.
When the apostle Paul said, "We are his offspring," are we to understand that his offspring have a sinful nature? When Jesus said, "I am the root and the offspring of David," are we to understand that Jesus, as the offspring of David, was born with a sinful nature? The very fact that Jesus was born as a man, descended from Adam (Luke 3:23-38), and was born with a human nature as we are, shows that men are not born with a sinful nature (I John 4:3, 2 John 7, Hebrews 2:14; 2:16-18; 4:15; Romans 1:3, Matthew 1:1, Luke 3:38). Who is willing to say that Jesus was born with a sinful nature? Yet, if one accepts the doctrine of original sin, he must either come up with further false teaching to exclude Jesus (as the Roman Catholics have with their doctrine of Immaculate Conception), or he must conclude that Jesus was born with a sinful nature which contradicts plain Bible teaching (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22). Why not just accept what plain passages in the Bible teach and that is that no one is born with a sinful nature. God has made us upright.
Note: If you will read Hebrews 2:9-17 you will see that if Jesus had not been "made like His brethren" (Hebrews 2:17) He would not have been qualified to be High Priest. Those who say that Jesus' birth was different deny that Jesus is now High Priest.
The doctrine of original sin is false. It slanders and libels the character of God, it denies that God is just, and it contradicts the plain teaching of God's Word. The doctrine of original sin is not a Bible doctrine, it is a false doctrine that contradicts the Bible on almost every page.
I want to continue our study now by asking the following question...
WHAT IS SIN AND COULD IT HAVE BEEN PASSED ON TO US BY ADAM?
Let us begin this part of our study with several quotations from God's word.
1 John 3:4, "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness."
James 4:17, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."
1 John 5:17, "All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death."
James 2:9, "But if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors."
James 1:13-15, &"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God', for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
1 Corinthians 6:18, "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits fornication sins against his own body."
Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned."
There are other passages that deal with sin and define what it is, but these are enough for us to establish how God defines sin. The apostle John was inspired to say that sin is lawlessness. Other translations translate the word lawlessness as, "breaking the law", "transgressing the law". It is defined in the lexicons as, "the violation of law" and it chiefly indicates a violation of divinely instituted law. (See The Word Study Dictionary). One can readily see that when a person sins it is because he makes the decision to violate God's law. James spoke of the fact that it is a sin to know to do good and then not do it. The implication here is that a person makes a conscious decision to not do good or not do God's will. The apostle John also said that unrighteousness is sin. Unrighteousness is the opposite of righteousness or being right in God's sight. To do unrighteousness is to make a conscious decision to do something wrong. James points out that sin results from being tempted to sin and then giving in to that temptation. Again, a conscious decision made by the individual. Paul shows that fornication is sin, thus showing that when one makes a conscious decision to be involved in an act that violates God's will it is sin. He also shows in Romans 5:12 that death spread to all men because all sinned. Not because Adam sinned, but because all made a conscious decision to sin.
Each one of these passages shows that sin is personal and the result of a personal decision to do something that violates God's Law. Every one of us is held responsible for our own sin. If we are lost in hell it will be because we made the conscious decision to do something that violated God's will or we decided not to do God's will. It will not be because of some imagined sinful nature we received from Adam.
I would encourage you to get a good Bible concordance and look up the word sin and read every passage that uses that word. If you do, you will see that sin is an action that a person takes that violates God's law. Sin is voluntary. We have a choice as to whether we will sin or not. Sin is not a substance. It has no material or physical properties. It is an act, and so it is impossible for it to be passed on physically. Sin is a responsible choice. People must reach a certain age of maturity before they are held accountable for sin. There is a time in everyone's life when they do not know to refuse evil and choose good (Isaiah 7:16; Deuteronomy 1:39). This is why we don't baptize babies. They do not know to refuse evil and choose good. They have no knowledge of good and evil, thus they cannot be held responsible for sin. But there comes a point when we mature enough to understand God's word and the difference between right and wrong. We are then held responsible for those actions we take that cause us to violate God's word.
Sin is therefore personal and non-transferable. No person can sin for, or be made guilty of, the sin of another person. Moral character, guilt, and accountability are non-transferable. The reasons we know this is how the Bible defines sin and what Ezekiel was inspired to write in Ezekiel 18:20, "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." Ezekiel's inspired words are as plain and clear as any words in the Bible. There is no way to misunderstand them. It clearly says that the son shall not bear the guilt of the father. If this statement does not contradict the doctrine of original sin, then there is no such thing as a contradiction. The doctrine of original sin teaches that the son does bear the guilt of the father. Ezekiel said it is not so. Which do you believe? Since Ezekiel is so clear as to the truth of this fact, then all those passages which one may think supports the doctrine of original sin must be re-examined and re-interpreted to agree with Ezekiel's statement.
In Deuteronomy. 24:16 the Bible says, "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall the children be put to death for their fathers; a person shall be put to death for his own sin." Seeing that the doctrine of original sin teaches that a son, in fact all sons and daughters, will be put to death for Adam's sin or original sin if they don't obey Christ, we can see the contradiction between what God teaches here and in what the doctrine of original sin teaches.
Last, I want to ask this question:
CAN GOD BE A JUST GOD IF
The answer to this is obvious in light of what we have learned in this lesson. It is impossible 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 charge 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? Such an idea goes against reason and revelation. Yet, this is the incredible teaching that people expect us to believe and accept.
This doctrine represents God as the most cruel and unreasonable being in the universe. It represents him as condemning and sending men to hell for a nature which they received without their knowledge or consent, and with which He created them. According to this doctrine, millions of babies have been born into this world with a sinful nature; they are sinners necessarily because of the nature with which they were born, and then they have died and will be lost without a chance to be saved. What a blasphemous slander this doctrine is upon the character and justice of God!
Let me close this lesson with the words we opened it with from 1 Peter 4:11. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God." Does the Bible support what you believe about the doctrine of original sin? Will you not closely examine this doctrine in light of the teaching of the Bible? If you find after this examination that it does not teach what you believe, are you willing to change your belief to conform to what the Bible teaches? We cannot please God with any other attitude.
Note: At some point we will write an article that deals with the passages that people use to support the doctrine of original sin. Until then, please restudy the article you just read. If what is taught in this article is true, then the Scriptures used to support the doctrine of original sin must be re-examined and re-interpreted to agree with what has been set forth here.