Archive for the ‘Total Depravity’ Category

Sentinel posted about original sin and how it extends even to infants a few days ago, and the general topic as of late has been original sin. I’d like to offer a quick summary of the Scriptures on original sin, and then discuss how an infant is saved. Just as infants are not automatically saved because they have not reached an age where they can reason, they also do not become believers outside of the normal means – namely that they come to faith in Jesus Christ through the Word.

What the Bible Says About Original Sin
The Bible teaches that no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The human heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). The natural man is dead in trespasses and sin (Eph 2:1). By nature, we pass “our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). We are inclined toward evil (Gen 6:5), conceived in sin, and “brought forth in iniquity” (Psalm 51:5). All of us “like sheep have gone astray” (Isa. 53:6). Even “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before the Lord (Isa. 64:6). We are by nature not just morally tainted, but “children of wrath,” deserving of God’s punishment, even before we actually sin in our flesh (Eph. 2:3). Even on the best of days, we are divided, doing what we don’t want to do and failing to do what we know is right (Rom. 7:18-19). Because of the Fall, we are hardwired toward evil. We sinned in Adam and died through his trespass, inheriting his guilt and a corrupt nature (see Rom. 5:12-21). In other words, we all deserve hell from the moment of our conception. We are morally stillborn, including infants.

What God Has Done About Our Moral Stillbirth
But God has provided a means for salvation, For “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death[.] We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom 6:3-4). Baptism is a way that infants can come to saving faith in Jesus.

How is this possible? Does baptism in and of itself have the power to save? No, God alone saves through His Word working in and through baptism to create saving faith in the heart of the infant. The Bible records several instances of infants expressing saving faith. Think of John the Baptist, who leapt for joy while in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:44). Remember also that Jesus said that “if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:42). Notice that He said little ones “who believe in me,” indicating that these little ones possessed genuine faith in Christ. The Greek for little ones in both of these passages is μικρων (mikron), which implies children under the age of three. Psalm 22:9-10 says, “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God” (some argue that since this passage is prophetic it only applies to Christ, but it is still an instance of infant faith nonetheless). 2 Timothy 3:15 points out “how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” The word used for infancy in this passage is βρέφος (brephos), which means an unborn child, embryo, baby, or infant! God can clearly create faith in anyone’s hearts — even infants, mentally handicapped, and Alzheimer’s patients — because salvation does not depend on our own reasoning abilities. This might even offend our reason and sensibilities, but the Scriptures are clear that infants and children can and do have faith. A child is upheld in the Bible as the ultimate model for how to receive Christ as Lord, for Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).

The Bible is careful to show how faith is a gift of God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The gift of God is precisely the faith through which salvation comes. “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). “You were raised with Him through faith in the working of God” (Colossians 2:12).

Faith is a gift, created by God’s Word. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Of course, God does not do the believing for us. It is we, infants and adults, who believe, just as it is we who live, and yet just as God gives and sustains our life, so God gives and sustains our faith.

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In a comment to a blog post, one person summed up the most typical opposition to the doctrine of original sin:

Adam’s sin only brings physical death and the inclination towards sin. We do not inherit its guilt so as to be born or conceived damned, nor can we be damned for his sin since God explicitly states “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.” (source)

It’s not really about the fact that Genesis 3 records the first time that creation disobeyed God and that God must now redeem this creation back to himself in order that justice may be served. No, people hate the idea that we’re being held responsible for the sin of this Adam dude who lived thousands of years ago, we never met, and we didn’t have a say-so in what he did.

The commenter covers two important effects of the original sin, but physical death and the inclination toward sin aren’t the only two effects of the Fall. The other effect, the effect that many deny, is imputed sin. Another commenter points out the consequences of such a belief system:

If you want to reject our Fall in Adam, you must also reject our Salvation through the Second Adam. Denying federal representation cuts both ways…you reject original sin, you reject Christ’s atonement. (source)

Let’s take a moment to look at imputed sin, then we’ll see why it is so important for the Atonement. First, we need to understand that we live in an individualist society and that the Bible was written by and to a collectivist society. Collectivist societies have a strong sense of identity with
the family unit, and the head of the family (the father) gave the entire family its reputation.

In this sort of society, the son would expect to suffer for the sins of his father.
By blood, all of us are descended from Adam. We take our ultimate family identification from him. Therefore, in a collectivist sense, we should expect to suffer the consequences of his sin. In a collectivist society, this would be the norm and no one would have the problem that some critics have today.

Adam’s sin is therefore imputed to us.

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—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14, emphasis added)

Sin and death have entered the world through Adam, and have spread to all men. By both nature and choice, men are sinners. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom 5:15, emphasis added). Through that one sin, many died. But there is good news:

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. (Rom 5:18-19, emphasis added)

Here the apostle is contrasting Adam’s act of disobedience with Christ’s act of obedience. Because of Adam’s disobedience, many were made sinners. But because of one act of obedience by Jesus Christ, many are justified before God and considered righteous. If you reject the first premise, then you are left with no basis for the second premise.

See also:

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The preceding post is the property of Christian Diversity (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.

[Editor’s note: this post has been thoroughly reworked due to some invigorating discussion in the comment section. Check out the refined version here.]

Original Sin Defined

The writers of the Augsburg Confession (found in the Book of Concord) defined Original Sin as the belief that “…since the fall of Adam all human beings who are propagated according to nature are born with sin, that is, without fear of God… [we] teach that this disease or original fault is truly sin, which even now damns and brings eternal death to those who are not born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit” (BOC, 39).

One Objection

Ezekiel 18:20a states, “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”

The word used for “soul” in this passage is the Hebrew word, nephesh. This passage leads to the objection that original sin cannot be true as I have outlined it, because it involves the son inheriting the guilt of the father.

The Question of the Soul: A Metaphysic of Original Sin

Three views of the soul are prevalent in Christianity. All of them presuppose metaphysical dualism. They are:

1) Our soul is constructed just as our physical body: Our soul is a half-and-half combination of the souls of our mother and father. One problem with this view is that it seems to treat the soul as a physical object. How exactly does a non-physical entity get combined half-and-half into a new non-physical entity. It certainly isn’t impossible, however. This view is quite popular.

2)  God specially creates each soul for each person when he/she is conceived/born/etc. Alternatively, God has already created every soul for everyone who will ever live, and puts them in a body when one is needed. The main problem with this view is that it would seem that if original sin is true (in the sense I have outlined it above), then God creates sinful souls for us.

3) Our soul is from Adam. There are no new souls for mankind, rather, we all share, in some sense, Adam’s soul.

I shall focus on 3) because it is the view I am forwarding. In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God breathed the breath (nephesh) of life into Adam. I contend that this (nephesh), which is in all humanity (and has been alternatively explained as our reason, soul, life, ethical awareness, etc.) is indeed our soul. Furthermore, because this nephesh is the same as that breathed into Adam, original sin is passed on, not through the inheritance simply of our parents’ genes, but through the fact that we share one and the same nephesh with Adam.

So how does this answer the objection from Ezekiel 18:20? Initially, one may argue it seems to purge the passage of all meaning. This is not the case, however. What Ezekiel is referring to is the sin of commission. That is, it refers to a sin which requires an action. Ezekiel is telling us that the actions of the father do not condemn the actions of the son. This does not, however, preclude the original sin, through which all are condemned equally.

Source:

The Book of Concord. Augsburg Fortress. 2000.

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The preceding post is the property of Christian Diversity (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.