Well hello there. If you are just joining us to learn about the topic of Original Sin, please note that we are in the middle of a discussion on Infant Baptism. The doctrine of Original Sin plays a crucial role as the impetus behind Infant Baptism so the two are inextricably linked. Since this is a pretty big topic, I decided to break out this part of the study as a separate podcast so it might be easier to find in searches when future folks just want to learn about the topic of Original Sin. So, when you hear me reference Infant Baptism in this Podcast, that would be the reason why. The next podcast, 036, will conclude our discussion regarding Infant Baptism. If you’re listening to the podcasts sequentially, we have not strayed from the topic at hand, you are still right on track.
The Doctrine of Original Sin
The doctrine of Original Sin basically states that man inherits the sin and guilt of Adam and Eve and because of that “Original Sin,” all men are condemned to destruction unless something happens to save them. This doctrine teaches; the sin of Adam and Eve has been passed down from generation to generation and there is no escaping its damning power. Everyone who has ever been born has “Original Sin” because Adam and Eve are the parents of us all.
So, the real question we must pursue, “Is there really such a thing as ‘Original Sin?’”
Defining our Terms
Let’s look at some popular scriptures used to support the doctrine of Original Sin. We’ll work through them and ask some questions as we always do. I think we are going to find they are not very convincing.
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned…”
Well, as good rhetoricians, let’s make sure we define our terms. What is sin? Sin is a departure from the divine laws placed on man by God. The result of sin is separation from God for all eternity.
How did sin enter the world? Through one man, the very first man who departed from God’s commands. Who was that man? Adam. What was the result of that sin? Separation from God and death. Before Adam sinned, was there death in the world? No. Death was a consequence of Adam’s sin. Was death the “punishment” for Adam’s sin. No. Banishment from the Garden was the punishment and that punishment was directed specifically at Adam and Eve. After banishment, the Garden was sealed preventing future generations from enjoying it. Was this a “punishment” for future generations? No. It was a consequence just like death was a consequence. For a complete understanding of this, please go back and read the account of the fall of man in Genesis and especially note Genesis 3:14 and 3:17. There, you will find that God cursed the serpent and the ground, not Adam, Eve and their offspring. Romans 5:12 concludes with the fact that all men sin.
Death: The New World Order
Death became a part of the “new world order” for mankind, not a punishment for Adam’s sin. Children are born into this new order as a result of the fall. We are unable to change the fact that all people die. We are unable to change the fact that all people are tempted to sin. But these are “new” sins, not inherited sins. Since sin separates man from God, all men are separated from God by their own sin. More on this shortly.
Perhaps an illustration in order. It’s a cold winter day and the falling snow has now reached just over 15 inches; a perfect day for some snow bound adventures for the kids. Little Adam, playing out doors in the wet snow, makes a hard snow-ball and fires it and poor little Eve. She ducks, just in the nick of time; the missile misses but dramatically crashes through the living room window shattering it to bits! Guess who’s gonna get punished? Yep, Adam. Guess who’s going to suffer the consequences of Adam’s gaff? The entire family, everyone who lives in that house! Do you get it? Adam and Eve messed up but we all suffer the consequences.
Here’s the next scripture often used as a proof text for Original Sin.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Death came through one man. Resurrection comes through one man. The phrase, “For as in Adam” is a comparison between us and Adam. In other words “Like Adam we all die.” There is nothing here about inheriting Adam’s sin, we inherit the consequences of Adam’s sin but are made alive as a result of Jesus sacrifice when we obey the Gospel.
Next scripture; Psalms 51:5 – This is David speaking…
“Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”
Please go back and put this in context so you will understand the big picture. This is David using hyperbole to express grief over his sin. He is not making a statement destined to become the foundation stone for the doctrine of Original Sin. He is just expressing deep emotion and grief about his own sin.
Ok, next scripture. This is from the first part of the Ten Commandments. From this passage we get the idea that punishment for sin gets passed on from generation to generation.
“… I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to the thousands of generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Well, this seems like it proves the doctrine of Original Sin, doesn’t it? God “punishes” the children for the sin of the fathers! But wait… this can’t be about Original Sin being passed down to all generations because this punishment is extremely limited in its scope. It does not go on in perpetuity! It is only to the third and fourth generation. And God proclaims this “punishment” long after the original fall of man. So, what is this really talking about?
This passage teaches that children inherit a form of punishment as a result of a parents sin. As an example, let’s say a Father is extremely wicked; he is abusive to his kids. He is mad all the time, he is angry. He yells at them. He tells them they are failures and he’s just a really nasty, sinful guy. Do you think that might have any effect, good or bad, on those children? Do you think that father’s behavior will have an effect, good or bad, on the children’s children?
The environment we grow up in has a profound effect on the way we build our own families. Some people will imitate the bad parenting they received. Some people will go to the opposite extreme and let their kids get away with anything and never provide any form of correction. This is the nature of things. Parenting, good or bad, affects out to the third and fourth generation. When we parent without God, we parent without a north star… without boundaries… without Divine guidance. Godly parenting, when passed on is consistent from generation to generation because God is consistent. When we parent with God, we receive the blessings of God to the third and fourth generation and potentially thousands after that. When God is absent, generations after that may suffer but it is limited to the third or fourth generation.
Man’s desire to succumb to temptation is a characteristic of, or property of our human nature. It’s what we do. It is how we are wired. No body can live a righteous life without God changing them. We do not inherit Adam’s sin; we inherit the consequences. We are born into a fallen world and we are under the power of that world. We do not have the power or ability to conquer this force… which ultimately leads to both spiritual and physical death. This is why we need a savior. We are not held accountable for something our ancestors did.
So, the scriptures themselves don’t support the doctrine of Original Sin, in fact, they teach just the opposite. Listen to this.
The Soul that Sins is Accountable
Here’s what Ezekiel 18 says. It really nails all of this down. Let me give you some nuggets from that chapter but I really want to encourage you to take some time and read all of Ezekiel 18.
“The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, What do people mean, when they use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?”
As I live, says the Lord God, you shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Listen, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die.”
God references a proverb the Israelites have been saying. That proverb about sour grapes suggests that something the fathers do directly and instantly effects their children. The father eats sour grapes and the children somehow have a physical reaction to something their parent did. The proverb, not a biblical proverb by the way, suggests that somehow, the father and the child are connected metaphysically… kind of like a voodoo dolls. God tells the Israelites; quit saying that, it’s not true.
Why does God select this particular proverb? Well, He is about to discuss how a parent’s sin is not connected to their children. Right off the bat, he chooses a familiar saying of the Israelites to tell them their ideas are wrong.
Later, in verse 20 God sums it up:
The soul that sins shall 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.
Here, God explains it all. The person who sins, that is the person who is accountable. The sons shall not and do not bear the punishment for their father’s sins.
Again… please read this whole chapter. God makes it very clear exactly who is responsible for what sin.
Does this sound like a God who loves us?
Now, if we think through the doctrine of Original Sin logically, something doesn’t jibe.
Does this doctrine of Original Sin sound fair? Does this sound like a reasonable expectation from God; that I am responsible for what Adam and Eve did and I must be punished for their sin? Does that sound like a gracious, fair and reasonable God? No.
We are not punished for anyone else’s sin. We are punished for our own sin.
The doctrine of Original Sin is a fabrication and is fading in modern theology. Many churches have abandoned the doctrine and teach we have not inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin but, as a consequence of the fall, we have a “sinful nature,” a carnal fleshly nature that craves not the spiritual but the temporal and fading things of this world. There is some debate about this term “sinful nature,” so let me make a quick comment.
A Sinful Nature?
Some argue that since we are made in the image of God, we can not have a “sinful nature.” They say “Man does not have a sinful nature because that implies he must have gotten that nature from God.” This is not how we should understand the term. “Sinful nature” means man has free will and prefers to make selfish choices rather than righteous choices. This is without question, our “nature.” Some refer to this as the “lust of the flesh,” but the result is the same. Humans universally crave anything that satisfies the self! If you don’t like the term “nature,” let’s say it is a characteristic or property of humans which is a misuse of God’s gift of a free will.
We all recognize our powerlessness over sin. It is a universal truth that temptation and sin exists. This is not Original Sin, it is an individual’s inability to resist the temptations of this fallen world.
In conclusion, the doctrine of original sin is a myth. It is a tradition. We are born into a fallen world and that world exerts a pressure on us which beckons us to sin all the time and no one can escape it. The consequences of living in this fallen world might be easily confused with Original Sin but as we saw in Ezekiel, each man bears the punishment for is own sin. We are not held accountable for our parents, grand-parents or any other ancestor’s sins.
If you are coming from a background where you were taught that Original Sin exists and you were baptized as in infant because your parents believed this doctrine, you have some things to think about. Let’s talk about that next as we conclude our review of infant baptism.Enjoy!