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             THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN: PART TWO

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Age of Accountability:

       If humans are not born sinners but become sinners by the choices they make, what about babies and children?  Do babies and small children sin?  Is there an “age of accountability” below which a person is not held accountable for sin or where behavior is unclassified?   Paul taught that all men have sinned (Romans 3:23, 5:12).  Does Paul's “all” include babies and young children?  Paul taught that all humans die in Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Does Paul’s “all” include newborns and aborted babies? 

       When a two-year-old boy is told by his mother not to take cookies out of the cookie jar and the child succumbs to his desire for a cookie and chooses to take a cookie, is this two year old held accountable before God as a sinner. By Scriptural definition this two year old has committed a sin.  He has disobeyed God’s command to honor one’s parents.  If when the mother asks the child whether he took the cookie and he lies by saying he didn't take the cookie, he disobeys Gods command not to lie.

       Did the child take the cookie and deny taking it because of having a sinful nature that predisposes him to disobey his parents and lie about what he did?   Does the child do these things because he is a sinner from birth or does he become a sinner by doing these things? In lying about taking the cookie the child reveals that he knew it was wrong to take the cookie. However, he succumbs to the temptation of the cookie and in the process commits sin.  

       Having a desire to have a cookie is not a sin. The desire to protect oneself from punishment for taking the cookie is not a sin. The sin was making the choice to take a cookie against the mother's orders not to do so and then choosing to lie when asked about the matter. Did the child make the sinful choices he made because he was born with a sinful nature?  Could the child have resisted the temptation to take the cookie and to lie about it?  If the boys three year old brother is faced with the same temptation but chooses to obey his mother and not take a cookie, does this mean the three year old doesn't have a sinful nature?  

       It should be evident that we become sinners by making sinful choices and not that we make sinful choices because we are born with a sinful nature.  Sinful choices are made when we express our human nature in ways contrary to righteousness. Our human nature is a rather complex mix of emotional attributes, passions and desires that can either be expressed righteously or unrighteously.  When expressed unrighteously is when sin occurs. 

       All humans express their human nature in sinful ways from time to time.  Some sin a great deal during their lives and others sin little, comparatively speaking.  But we all sin and therefore are all in need of Christ’s atonement.  At what point a baby or young child is seen as committing sin and/or is accountable for sin is not spelled out in Scripture unless you believe all humans are born sinners which would make this discussion of an age of accountability superfluous.

       Jesus taught that we must receive the Kingdom as little children in order to enter it. Jesus equates being humble as a child with being great in the Kingdom (Matthew 18:3-4, Mark 10:14-15).  In Isaiah 7:16, a child is spoken of who was not at an age to know how to choose the evil from the good.  In Deuteronomy 1:39, small children are spoken of as not knowing the good from the bad.  What any of this means relative to an age of accountability is uncertain.

       Does not knowing the good from the bad remove accountability for doing bad?  What about disabled adults who cognitively don’t know the good from the bad?  Does ignorance of the law remove the penalty for breaking the law?  No it does not.  Breaking of law has natural consequences whether we are aware of such law or not. 

        If we are to take Paul’s statements about all sinning and all dying in Adam as meaning all humans who have ever lived, then it would appear that all humans are seen as sinning and being held accountable for sin whether or not they are cognizant of their sin.  Having an inability to comprehend certain behavior as sinful does not negate the sinfulness of such behavior or remove its consequences.  However, if it should turn out that babies or children under a certain age are not held accountable for sin, it takes nothing away from what Christ did in facilitating salvation for all who are accountable for sin.  In either case, eternal life is a gift from God and not dependent on anything we humans do or don’t do.  Since the Scriptures do not present a clear teaching as to an age of accountability for babies and children, we should not be dogmatic on this matter. 

In the flesh versus in the spirit:

       Paul makes it clear that to behave righteously or unrighteously is a choice. Humans are not inherently predisposed to do one or the other.  What we inherently are predisposed to do is make choices.  In Romans 6:15-18, Paul compliments the Romans for having turned from being slaves to sin (choosing sin) to being slaves to righteousness (choosing righteousness).  Sin and righteousness are manifested through behavioral choices not through inherent predispositions.  Jesus indicates this to be the case when He said;  "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority" (John 7:17, NKJV).  Let’s now consider Romans 8:8-9.

       Romans 8:8-9a: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you (KJV).

        When Paul tells the Romans they are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, he is not telling them they are no longer in their fleshly body or no longer have their God given human nature composed of emotions/passions and desires they were created with. He is not telling them they have lost their human nature.  He is telling them they are no longer exercising their God given human emotions/passions/desires in a sinful way.  God didn’t design humans to have sinful nature.  Adam’s sin didn’t change God’s design of the human heart so that it became inherently sinful.  Sinful nature results from expressing our human nature in ways contrary to righteousness.  Sinful expression of mans natural and normal human emotions  and desires became ubiquitous after Adam and Eve were tossed out of the garden.  We see this in what led God to bring the flood upon the earth.  Did God destroy his human creation because they were inherently sinful or because they allowed sinful behavior to dominate their lives? 

       Genesis 6:5-7: The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved (Hebrew: way-yin-nā-ḥem) that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain (Hebrew: atsav). So the LORD said, "I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth--men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air--for I am grieved (way-yiṯ-‘aṣ-ṣêḇ) that I have made them."

       The Hebrew word translated grieved in this passage is way-yin-nā-ḥem and literally means to be sorry and regretful over something.  The NET bible translates way-yin-nā-ḥem as “regretted.”  In the phrase “his heart was filled with pain,” the word "pain" is translated from the Hebrew word atsav and means to experience emotional pain and depression, embarrassment and to be offended.  The NET Bible translates atsav as “offended.” These Hebrews words are used a number of times in the OT and by context can be seen to reflect these definitions.  It is apparent that God became truly sorry He had made man when he saw to what extant man became evil.

       Was God surprised by the extent to which man became evil?  If God created man with an inclination to sin, why would God be sorry and regret having made man?  If, as some believe, God created man to be a sinner, wasn’t man simply carrying out God’s will?  Why then did God become grieved with His creation?  Furthermore, if God willed that man be born with an inclination to sin, how could He instruct man to obey Him and then punish man when man didn’t obey Him?  It is counter-intuitive to require that a person ought to do something and then disallow the freedom of will and choice to do it or create barriers that make it difficult or impossible to do.

       It appears much more reasonable to conclude God created man with basic emotions/passions and desires with the ability to choose how those attributes are expressed.  It appears reasonable to believe that from the beginning God intended for man to choose righteousness. When man consistently chose unrighteousness, God became sorry that He had created man.  Prior to the flood, man’s evil choices became so dominant that a virtual culture of wickedness developed.  God destroyed His human creation not because they were born predisposed to sin but because they became predisposed to sin by the choices they made. After the flood God reflected on human behavior and concluded he would not ever again curse the ground because of man’s sinning ways as it was apparent that man will always make sinful choices to one extent or another (Genesis 8:21).

       God foresaw from the beginning that in creating man with the type of emotional attributes he did and the free will to choose how these attributes are expressed, man would express these attributes in a sinful way to one degree or another.  It is apparent God did not anticipate the extent to which his creation would make sinful choices and He became grieved that He had made man.  He decided to destroy man but preserved his creation through Noah and essentially started the human race all over again. 

       A common Christian teaching is that God is omniscient which means He knows everything that will ever happen before it happens.  Nowhere does the Bible teach God is omniscient.  The word omniscient doesn’t appear in Scripture.  God being grieved over His creation would make no sense if God knew in advance how sinful man would become and that He would have to destroy His creation in a flood. When it was reported to God that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah had become very great, God is seen as going down to see if what He had heard is true.

       Genesis 18:20-21: Then the LORD said, "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."   

       God going down to confirm what He had heard makes no sense if God already knew in advance that what He had heard was true. This account goes on to show God having a conversation with Abraham where Abraham questions God about destroying the righteous with the wicked.  

       Genesis 23b-26: Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare  the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing--to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge  of all the earth do right?"The LORD said, "If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake." 

       Abraham continues to try and save the cities from destruction by asking God if he would spare the cities if as little as ten righteous could be found and God agreed to spare the cities if as little as ten righteous could be found. Apparently not even ten righteous could be found and the cities were destroyed.

       The implication here is that God did not know in advance whether there were any righteous in the city and it is only after searching the city was it determined that there wasn't even ten righteous. Some believe God was only humoring Abraham and God knew all along that there were no righteous in the cities.  However, such a conclusion is without Scriptural evidence and is seemingly based on the assumption that God knows everything in advance which Scriptural evidence shows not to be the case.    

         In 1 Samuel 15:11 it is recorded God was grieved that He made Saul to be King over Israel because Saul failed to do His will.  If God knew in advance that Saul would not do His will, why did He appoint him King over Israel?   In Genesis 22:11-12, we see God testing Abraham and when Abraham passes the test God says; Now I know that you fear God.”  It is apparent God did not know this beforehand.  God is seen as testing Israel in various ways to see if they will obey Him (see Exodus 16:4, Deuteronomy 8:2, Judges 2:21-22).  Such testing would be superfluous if God knew in advance how Israel would respond.   The following passage, where God is quoted, speaks for itself as to the issue of God knowing everything in advance.

       Jeremiah 32:35: They built high places for Baal in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.

       God did not predetermine that man must sin.  God created within man the ability to make choices as to how the emotions and desires He created within man are expressed.  Having made man the way he did, God knew that man would not always make righteous choices and predetermined that the consequence of unrighteous choices would be eternal death. God also predetermined to provide a savior to atone for sin and in so doing make us righteous before God despite our sinful behavior. 

       The righteousness of God is not imputed to us in exchange for the supposed imputed sinfulness of Adam.  God’s righteousness is imputed to us in exchange for Christ's sacrificial death that delivers us from the eternal death we have all earned by failing to live by God's Spiritual standards.  A careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that God's Spirit has always been available to those who seek after it. It is man's failure to seek after God's Spirit and the righteousness it brings that has resulted in the massive amount of sin extant in the world. 

       Some will point to what Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans as evidence God predetermined that all humans must sin so He can have mercy on them all.

       Romans 11:32: For God has bound (Greek:sugkleio) all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (NIV).

     Galatians 3:22: But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner (sugkleio) of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.     

       The Greek word sugkleio, translated “bound” in the NIV rendering of Romans 11:32, is variously translated as “concluded” (KJV), “committed” (NKJV), “shut up” (ASV) and “consigned” (ESV).  In the Galatians passage sugkleio is variously translated as “concluded” (KJV), “confined” (NKJV), “shut up” (ASV), “imprisoned” (ESV and NET).   The Greek Lexicons define sugkleio as to “enclose, hem in, confine or imprison.”  Luke uses this word to describe the enclosure of a large number of fish in a net (Luke 5:6). 

       Is Paul teaching that God, when creating man, predetermined that man sin so that God can have mercy on all men and deliver man from the sin He predetermined man commit?  Has God intentionally consigned man to sin and made man a prisoner of sin so He can have mercy on man?  Did God specifically create a “sin nature” in man so He could deliver man from the very nature with which He created man?  

       Romans, chapter one debunks such an idea.  In this chapter, Paul describes in detail how wretched man had become.  Paul repeatedly shows that because man has rejected the way of righteousness and has consistently chosen to disobey God, God has given man up to even more wretchedness (Romans 1:18-28).  God is essentially saying to man that since man chooses to behave contrary to righteousness, God is going to step back and allow man to have his way and suffer the consequences. 

       God has bound all men over to disobedience and made the whole world a prisoner of sin not because God intended and predetermined that man sin.  God has done this because man has chosen to live contrary to righteousness and God has allowed such choice.  Because man has consistently chosen to live contrary to God’s will, God has given man up to even greater sin (Romans 1:18-28) resulting in the whole world becoming a prisoner of sin.  God is seen as consistently condemning sin.  To conclude that God on the one hand condemns sin and at the same time pre-determined that man sin is an absolute oxymoron. It is a ludicrous conclusion. The Scriptures make it clear that it is God’s will that man live righteously but if man chooses to be disobedient, God not only allows it but stands aside and gives man great latitude as to how far He allows man to go in his disobedience.    

       Psalm 81:10-12; I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. "But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices.

       When God created man He created human attributes which included various emotions and desires.  God created man with the power of choice as to how the human nature He created could be expressed.  There is no indication God created man with a predisposition to express human nature in a sinful way.  He pronounced his creation of man to be very good (Genesis 1:31).  The doctrine of original sin implies that when Adam sinned, man's nature was changed to a sinful nature and all mankind inherits this sinful nature through procreation.   This doctrine virtually gives Adam the power to have changed what God made very good into something very evil.  This is not what the Scriptures teach.

       The Scriptures associate sinful nature with the deeds done by the body.  The sinful nature is something we produce by sinfully expressing the emotions and desires and free will God created in us.  Paul makes this evident when he defines the sinful nature as the misdeeds of the body which can be displaced be deeds engendered by the Spirit.  It is not our human nature that is changed.  It is our expression of our nature that is changed. 

       Romans 8:13-14: For if you live according to the sinful nature (Greek sarx which means flesh), you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

       Paul speaks of putting to death the misdeeds of the body.  He associates misdeeds of the body with the sinful nature/flesh The NIV renders the Greek sarx as "nature" whereas most translations render it as "flesh" which is how this word is defined in Greek. However, whether rendered "nature" or "flesh", when Paul speaks of the sinful sarx, he is speaking about sinful expression of human emotions and desires and not that the literal flesh that clings to the human skeleton is sinful.

       If the human body with its fleshly construction is sinful in and of itself, Jesus would have had a sinful body as He obviously was a flesh and blood human. Also, Paul would be instructing the Roman Christians to literally kill their fleshly bodies if indeed the fleshly body is sinful. Obviously, this is not what Paul is teaching.  Paul is not instructing the Romans to put to death their flesh but to put to death the sinful expression (misdeeds) of the emotions/ passions/desires that make up their fleshly body. 

Original Sin and the Nature of Jesus:

       Hebrews 2:17, records that Jesus was made like his brothers in every way.  Paul told the Philippian Christians that Jesus was made in the likeness of man (Philippians 2:7).  Paul told the Roman Christians that God sent Jesus in the likeness of sinful man (Romans 8:3).  In the Romans passage the Greek word translated “man” in the NIV is sarx which is better translated “flesh" and is rendered as such in most translations. The Greek sarx appears 151 times in the NT and by context can be seen to simply mean the fleshly body and/or the fleshly nature which can be expressed sinfully or righteously.

       The English rendering of “like” and “likeness” in these three passages is from a basic Greek word which means to be like something.  This word can mean being exactly like something, similar to something or an image of something.  The Scriptures show Jesus to be flesh.  Paul said Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3).  Peter spoke of the flesh of Christ not seeing corruption (Acts 2:31).  Paul speaks of being reconciled to God through the fleshly body of Christ (Colossians 1:22).  Paul wrote to Timothy that Christ was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).  Peter wrote that Christ suffered in the flesh (1 Peter 4:1).  In 1 John 4, John speaks of Christ coming in the flesh. 

       Since Jesus is consistently seen as being flesh in Scripture, it appears reasonable to conclude that when Paul writes that Jesus is in the likeness of man, He is truly in the likeness of man and not merely a facsimile of man.  Being in the likeness of man means Jesus had the same emotions/passions and desires as all other humans.  What differentiates Jesus from all other humans is that He never expressed these God created human attributes in a sinful way.        

       What does Paul mean in Romans 8:3 in saying God sent Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh?  Sinful flesh is often associated in Scripture with behaving sinfully. We know from Scripture Jesus never sinned.  So what is Paul saying in Romans 8:3?

       Romans 8:3: For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh (KJV).

       Paul wrote to the Corinthian's that Christ took our sins upon Himself on the cross and virtually became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The context of Romans 8:1-3 is God sending Jesus to condemn sin in the flesh by becoming a sin offering.  Paul appears to be saying to the Romans the same thing he said to the Corinthians.  Jesus took upon himself the sins of humanity and suffered sin death on our behalf.  Jesus had sinful flesh only in that He became sin for us at the time of His crucifixion.  

       Jesus never acquired a sinful nature because He never expressed the emotions/passions/desires of his fleshly nature in a sinful way.   Therefore, Jesus did not have to put to death sinful flesh for Himself.  Jesus was led by the Spirit of God from birth.  Jesus always expressed His human/fleshly nature according to the Spirit.  He was totally led by God's Spirit throughout His life.  Jesus never experienced sinful nature because He never sinned.  He lived His whole life according to the Spirit.  Jesus was successfully able to resist all temptation to sin because God gave Him the power to do so.  God insured Jesus would never sin by equipping Him with the power to never sin. 

       The presence of God was so pronounced in Jesus that he was always able to submit His human will to the Father's will. When faced with the crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father to spare Him the ordeal He was about to face but concluded his prayer by saying "Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39).  Jesus was a son of God from birth because He was led by the Spirit of God from birth.  We become sons of God through spiritual transformation which leads to expressing our human nature in a Godly way as opposed to expressing it in a sinful way.   We experience a spiritual rebirth which changes how we think and therefore how we behave.  Spiritual rebirth places us in the kingdom (John 3:5-8).  Being in the kingdom is all about expressing righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

       No human other than Jesus has been given the power to express the tenets of the kingdom as perfectly as Jesus did.  No other human has been given the level of power Jesus had to consistently express righteous behavior.   Jesus was given this level of power so He could remain sinless and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  All other humans, including those transformed by the Spirit of God, have sinned and need to be reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ.

PART THREE