Christian Theology, Biblical Theology

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Arguments Against Original Sin

Michelangelo's painting of the sin of Adam and...Image via Wikipedia

Original sin, arguments against it. Original sin teaches that Adam was the federal head of the human race and therefore all men sinned in Adam when he sinned. Augustine taught that all men are guilty of Adam's sin and suffer the consequences which include a sinful nature. According to Roman Catholic theology, baptism erases the guilt of original sin and imparts the new birth to the recipient. Pelagius objected to a view that God would condemn an unbaptized infant for the sin of Adam - this is what started the Pelagian vs. Augustine controversy which lasted for years. To a degree this argument is moot because everyone will succumb to sin in their lives and therefore is in need of a savior. The primary issue with original sin is that most churches (protestant and catholic) abuse the doctrine and teach that men will be sinners from the womb to the grave; but this is contrary to the bible's teaching on holiness. Christ died that we may have His strength through the Holy Spirit to live holy lives, and walk as He did. Read what the bible teaches about grace, not what man teaches; click here to read about God's grace.

The Greek Church teaches that men suffer the consequences of Adam's sin; yet they still maintain their free will. Most Protestants teach that men suffer the consequences of Adam's sin including an innate sinful nature but do not partake in the guilt of his sin. I don't think any of these views are correct; the Greek view may be the closest of the three to my views. There is absolutely no biblical evidence for the doctrine of original sin and is the teaching is a product of a deterministic worldview.

Ontologically man is a free moral agent and this ontological status never changed after the fall of Adam. Men continue to be free moral agents and intrinsically possess free will which is intrinsic to free moral agency. This is not to say that a man cannot become a slave to sin - but if he does, it is because of his willful subjugation to sin and not some innate sinful nature.

Adam's fall did have an impact on the world, animal kingdom, man and his relationship with God; however, it did not change man's essence as a free moral agent, man has free agency.  Free will is a "self evident truth" that all men know intuitively. Even the Hard Determinist cannot live her life with any consistency; she believes in determinism with her mind, yet lives her life as though she has free will and is therefore, accountable for her actions. She freely makes decisions of her own volition on a routine basis -and holds others accountable for their decisions as well. Her worldview is inconsistent with her lifestyle. With ability comes accountability.

If man is born with a "sin nature" whereby he cannot do anything but sin, how can a just God hold him accountable for his sins ? For God to judge a man as "guilty" for an innate sinful proclivity or another man's sin viz. Adam's sin would be contrary to the justice of God's nature and what He expects from His moral agents that is clearly taught in the bible. As we will see upon further exploration, the doctrine of original sin, is tenuous and not supported by scripture and is grounded in a deterministic philosophy.

Sidebar - If one believes in original sin, this belief logically entails that the believer also accept that homosexuality is an innate sin and people are born gay! Homosexuality would be nothing more than the manifestation of the ostensible sin nature - so to be consistent in ones theology; you can't have an in borne sin nature and deny the innate nature of homosexuality.

Original sin was not taught by the early church of the ante-Nicene period. To cite one of many sources from the early church; in The Shepard of Hermas we read “Have simplicity of heart and thou shalt be innocent; and be as the infant who knows nothing of that malice, which destroys human happiness”. The Pelagian view on original sin is closer to the view of the Ante-Nicene church.

The teaching of original sin was promulgated by Augustine in the 5th century who in turn convinced the theologian Jerome of his doctrine as well. Augustine came from a background of Manicheanism which held to a form of fatalism and deterministic philosophy. original sin teaches that man is fated to a life of sin which is contrary to free will and free moral agency. This teaching is deterministic in nature and easy to see why Augustine favored this it given his deterministic leanings in his worldview.

While Augustine was promulgating his teaching of original sin, a British monk Pelagius was challenging his views because of the moral laxity prevalent in the church and the historical teachings of the church of the ante-Nicene era. Pelagius believed that Augustine’s theology didn’t stress man’s participation and responsibility in his sanctification and would encourage moral laxity because of the deterministic nature of Augustine’s theology. Pelagius’ teachings were commensurate with the early church and this is borne out by the great struggle Augustine had in condemning his teachings. It took Augustine years of arm twisting and politicising to convince the Pope to condemn any views that didn't jibe with original sin.

I have read Pelagius' commentary on Romans, and he is quite Evangelical in his views and I found nothing heretical about his views - actually a quite boring read.

Augustine recruited Jerome in his attempts to sell his doctrine to the church and in doing so had to dispose of Pelagius and his objections to his theology. For two years and several councils Augustine and Jerome took Pelagius to task; but the Pope and the church sided with Pelagius every time. Augustine found favor with the church because he was quite instrumental in his healing the schism of the Donatists in North Africa and the church was indebted to him for this. After several attempts with Pope Zosimus, Augustine was finally able to get the church to side with him rather than Pelagius. The Church favored the view of free will (and ultimately returned to a semi-pelagian position) and was not open to this new teaching on original sin until this conflict with Pelagius. 


By the way; this same council would have condemned the teachings of Luther and Calvin as well (For the Protestant reading this article).

Augustine was crafty in his last attack of Pelagius to make this theological debate one of infant baptism instead of original sin. Pelagius thought that it was repugnant to think that God would condemn to hell, infants who died prior to being baptized. Augustine jumped on this opportunity to posit the Pelagian position against the church's doctrine on infant baptism. Even at this point, Pope Zosimus could not side with Pelagius. Pelagius believed that men were considered innocent in God's eyes until they reached an age of accountability.

Augustine finally defeated Pelagius and original sin became one of the tenets of the Catholic faith. The Eastern Church never embraced Augustine’s doctrine of original sin; they taught and still teach that man is a free moral agent and maintained his free will after the fall of Adam. They teach that sin “injured” man and of course had a great impact on all of creation.

Those who believe in original sin appeal to Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” Romans 5:12 “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” Romans 3:10 “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no not one;’” Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Ephesians 2:3 “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Let’s explore the proof texts for original sin. The scriptures in the preceding paragraph do not make any reference to the extent of mankind’s participation in Adam’s sin. God forgave Adam and Eve of this sin in Genesis 3:21 “And the Lord made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.” This is the first Biblical account of atonement.

If God forgave Adam and Eve from the guilt of their sin, why would He hold us accountable? The Bible is clear with respect to the accountability of sin. Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul that sins shall surely die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.”

Some will appeal to the death of man being the result of sin, and if an infant dies, this proves that they are guilty of Adam’s sin. But was man created as physically immortal? If so, what would be the purpose for the tree of life in the Garden?

Regarding Psalm 51, David wrote that he was conceived in sin, but if this is teaching original sin; shouldn’t David have said that he was conceived with sin in him? I believe that David was born of fornication and conceived in sin. When the Prophet Samuel came to anoint David, Jesse did not present David as one of his sons. Could Jesse have purposely not included David among his sons to present to Samuel because David was illegitimate? Could it be that David didn’t have the standing as his half-brothers did in that society? Again if this Psalm is dealing with original sin it would be incorrect to say that David was conceived in sin; but rather more correct to say that David was conceived with sin in him, or sin was conceived in him.

Regarding Romans 5:12, if this is referring to the guilt of Adam’s sin, then we must also accept at the following Scriptures. Romans 5:18 “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.” If indeed Romans 5:12 is dealing with the guilt of Adam’s sin, then these scriptures clearly show that Christ’s death erased the guilt of Adam’s sin. Regarding Romans 3:10 and 3:23, all men are sinners and according to Ephesians 2:3 we are sinners by nature. But we are sinners because of our willful continuing in sin and are only guilty of the sins that we commit not the sin that Adam committed.  When we do something long enough it becomes our nature or lifestyle. By nature means by natural birth – this doesn't imply some native or natural inability; it merely implies that we will sin under temptation.  Paul said "we are Jews by nature"; certainly the term nature has a meaning apart from and other than an innate penchant for something? I may add that All unconverted men will sin and it is only through the grace of God and the life of Christ can we live free from sin. Men sin because they are enticed to do so by the desire to please the flesh, other sinners, and demons.

There is strong scriptural justification to show that children are innocent in God’s eyes until they reach an age of accountability of which age, only God knows. These scriptures are Isaiah 7:15-16 and Deuteronomy 1:34-39. This is a very thorny issue for those who hold to original sin. If the Augustinian view of original sin is to hold in force; then unbaptized or unsaved infants who die must suffer eternal damnation if we are to maintain theological and logical consistency with the doctrine. Yet very few if any will acknowledge this.

Original sin is not a biblical teaching, tenuous at best and the product of fatalism and deterministic philosophy. It impugns the justice of God and strips man of any free will and responsibility. Sometimes theologians will appeal to the universal sinfulness of man for support of their doctrine. The sinfulness of man does not entail original sin, Jesus said in John 8:34 “…everyone who sins is a slave to sin” and Paul said in Romans 6:16-19 “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness” The bible clearly teaches that men sin of their own free will and become slaves to sin because of their repeated lifestyle of sin. They willfully take on a sinful nature – yet Jesus said that “who the Son sets free is free indeed”.

You will not be able to hold God accountable at your judgment for your sinful lifestyle; because He ostensibly created you with a sin nature. You have a sin nature because it has become your way of life of your own volition. Come to Christ and let Him set you free. Original  sin is clearly not taught in the bible and also runs contrary to the justice of God as well as our intuition.
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3 comments:

  1. Very well presented. I've been looking at this issue for some time. It's hard to talk to people in the church about it because Calvinism is assumed. Same thing for commentaries. It makes far more sense to view it the way Pelagius presented it.

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  2. Thank you I tried to be fair and present the historical truth, if you have read Calvin's Institutes he accuses the ante-Nicene Fathers of going to far in extollling man's free will. Who is Calvin to judge the Apostolic Fathers? Calvinism is attractive to many because so many of his teacings are valid arguments but a valid argument is not necessarily a true argument. And the bible is a "Partial revelation from God" so to think that we can develop a systematic theology that is complete is nuts! God's incomprehensibility and the incompleteness of the bible preclude any complete system of theology....Bu this doesn't stop the Calvinist. I do cut them some slack in that most of them think that valid arguments are true arguments and most Christians are ignorant of what the bible teaches and never get to know the nature of God as they should. But shame on them.

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  3. A powerful, well written article. Thank you. I'd also like to add that since the Vatican insist on having an original sin, it might be interested to know that this was not committed here on Earth. The first sin ON RECORD was committed by Satan in heaven, which was PRIDE! Therefore, if Satan committed the original sin on record, it cannot be pinned on humans to pay! Splitting hairs further, if the Vatican wants to punish us for "The Second Sin" -- which was "Disobedience" -- OK, they can do that. Too bad Christ Jesus came along and ruined it for them ... by shedding His blood and making us ... washed ... holy ... perfect ... and justified. (Col 2.13-14 / 1 Cor 6.11 / Heb 10.14.) LOL. Praise the Lord.

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