Posts Tagged ‘Sin’

To be sure an accurate view of our human nature is important because the Gospel is important. As J. I. Packer wrote “it is only as we acknowledge the tragedy and feel the misery of our personal ruination through original sin that we shall properly value the Good News of the Savior.” And, G. K. Chesterton noted in his Orthodoxy that original sin is the only philosophy that can be empirically verified. Just pick up the daily newspapers, says Chesterton! I’m repeatedly amazed that from the earliest age children need no training in selfishness or pride or discontent or rebellion. Every human comes fully stocked with these “qualities;” they are not accessories. Every parent labors to reverse these traits in our children while working ourselves to learn what it means to be compassionate, humble, content, and obedient.

The doctrine of peccatum originale (original sin) rightly assumes that the entire human race is an organic unity. We find that our origin or source is from the same common stock, namely the first human, Adam. Just as C. S. Lewis once pointed out that “like begets like,” so too Paul says “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). It is not insignificant that “all” stands first in the clause of Paul’s declaration “death came to all men.” Moreover, although Adam’s sin was in the past, Paul insists that “all sinned.” The context is not so much referring to individual activity (though this is implicit), but to corporate responsibility as conferred on us by the first human who sinned.

Thus, we inherit far more than just the biological nature of our parentage; we inherit their spiritual nature as well. There is a solidarity to the human race such that the original humans stand as the moral, physical, social, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual representatives of all people everywhere and at all times (Acts 17:26a). Just as our genetic makeup or biological DNA is derived from our parentage, so too is our spiritual makeup or spiritual DNA. (The concept of “generational sin” unlikely applies to believers. See my essay “Not My Father’s Keeper or What’s All the Fuss about Generational Sin?”.)

But there’s more. Rom. 5:18-19 claims: “the result of one trespass was condemnation for all [because] through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners.” As the representative for all humanity, God counted everyone born of and from Adam morally guilty. In some sense peccatum originale could be viewed as culpa originale (original guilt, not original sin). You see it is not only true all have sinned actually (Rom. 3:23), but it is equally true that all have sinned originally in Adam.

Consequently, God judges all on the basis of one man’s sin because all are conceived with a natural inclination to do only what is contrary to God (Rom. 8:5-9; 1 Cor. 15:21-22; Gal. 5:16-17). Indeed, we have no other choice but to live predominantly from our sinful bent. The Bible calls this slavery to sin (Rom. 6:6, 16-17, 19; 7:14). Though it may not appear fair that God would judge all on the basis of one man’s sin, it is the disposition of Adam’s guilt rather than his sin per se that is inherited – just as Christ assumed our guilty status instead of our particular sinful acts (Is. 53:6; 2 Cor. 5:14, 21; 1 Pt. 2:24; 3:18).

But some may say, “It’s not fair to be represented by someone else’s guilt! Why should I be blamed for what Adam did?” Of course, if we want to play the fairness game, then in the name of fairness it is also unfair that Christ would die in my place and do for me what I should have done for myself. “Fairness” cuts both ways and it’s doubtful that any born from above would appreciate the sword slicing in that direction!

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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.