by Alfred T. Overstreet
Several objections have been made to the Bible doctrine of sin, which is the doctrine that men are created upright, and that they sin and corrupt themselves. Eccl. 7:29. The following is an attempt to answer these objections:
1. OBJECTION: We know from observation that babies are born with a sinful nature, because they fuss and scream, refuse to eat, go into a rage, throw tantrums, etc.
ANSWER: It is both morally and physically impossible to be born with a sinful nature. First, it is a moral impossibility because a baby cannot justly be a sinner by birth that a baby can be a sinner and guilty and condemned at birth is morally unthinkable! Second, it is a physical impossibility because sin is not a substance and so cannot be transmitted physically.
But we know that babies fuss and scream, refuse to eat, and throw tantrums before they know the difference between right and wrong. Do those who advocate the doctrine of original sin want to advance the argument that an inherited sin nature makes little babies sin before they even know what it is and before they know that they are sinning? This makes sin such a completely necessary, involuntary, and impersonal thing that there could never be any blame or guilt for it. If it is true that little babies sin because of a sinful nature and before they even know they are sinning, then it follows that they are completely automated and that their sin is completely necessary, involuntary, and impersonal. If all this were true, you could no more blame sinners for being sinners than you could blame a clock for striking the hour something it does impersonally, involuntarily, and necessarily because it was built to do so.
But babies fuss and scream, refuse to eat, throw tantrums, etc., not because of a sinful nature, but in response to pain and discomfort, the likes and dislikes of appetite, and the urges and desires of the sensibility. True, they do things which we think are selfish and sinful, and things which would in fact be selfish and sinful if they did them knowing them to be wrong. But while they have no knowledge of right and wrong, their actions have no moral character, and therefore their actions are not and cannot be "sinful." It is only when a child's reason has developed and he has a clear understanding of right and wrong (an understanding of his accountability and the moral nature of his actions) that he becomes a moral agent and is responsible and accountable for his actions.
2. OBJECTION: We know from observation that sin is inherited because we see children inherit the sinful traits of their parents.
ANSWER: Children do inherit physical traits from their parents but they do not and cannot inherit moral traits or sin from their parents. Children only appear to inherit the moral traits of their parents. The whole home environment, with the continual example of parents and other family members, has an enormous influence upon a child's behavior; and it would be astonishing if children did not seem to inherit the moral traits of their parents, whether good or bad.
But those who will insist that the moral traits of the parents are inherited by the children must answer the questions: Why is it that many children "inherit" traits that are the exact opposite of their parents? Why is it that brothers and sisters in the same family will have moral traits the exact opposite of each other? Is the "inheritance" of sinful traits a hit or miss thing? The answer is that there is no such thing as inheritance of sinful traits. And, of course, we know that it is impossible to inherit either the good or bad moral traits of parents. There is nothing physical about sin; sin is a voluntary and personal act, and is non-transferable.
3. OBJECTION: But why is it always easier to sin than to do good? And why is it that all men do in fact sin? Doesn't this show that men are born with a sinful nature?
ANSWER: First, this objection assumes that since it is so easy to sin, and since sin is universal, this has to be explained by an inherited sin nature. But the Bible gives another explanation for the universal existence of sin: universal temptation.
But why is it so much easier to sin than to do good? It has always been easier to sin than to do good. Adam and Eve did not have a sinful nature, but they sinned just as easily as any of their descendants. What was it that caused them to sin so easily? It was not a sinful nature, it was temptation. Adam and Eve were tempted and they sinned so easily, so naturally, so spontaneously that it would almost seem that they had a "sinful nature" before they sinned.
It has always been easier to sin than to resist temptation. James 1:12 says, "Blessed is he that endureth temptation." Heb. 2:18 says, "For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted," and Heb. 12:4 says, he "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
Christ "suffered" under temptation, not because of a sinful nature, but because resisting and overcoming temptation involves suffering. Adam and Eve did not resist temptation. That is why they sinned so easily. They took the easy way of pleasure and self-indulgence, which is always easier than the path of obedience to God.
But if the fact that it is easier to sin than to do right implies that men are born with a sinful nature, we would be left with the unscriptural conclusion that both Adam and Christ had sinful natures Adam, because he sinned so easily, naturally, and spontaneously; and Christ, because it was necessary for him to "endure," "suffer," "resist," and "strive" to overcome sin.
James tells us how all men are tempted. "But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin, and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death." James 1:14, 15. James explains here that all men are tempted through the desires of their sensibility. These constitutional desires and appetites are not sinful in themselves. They are merely the occasion to temptation, and it is only when they are gratified contrary to the law of God and reason that they become sinful. Adam and Eve had them before they sinned, or they could not have been tempted. Christ had them, or he was not a man and could not have been tempted as other men. But the Bible affirms that Christ was a man and that he was tempted in all points as other men, and yet without sin: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Heb. 4:15.
Sin is universal, not because of an inherited sin nature, but because temptation is universal, and, because when men are tempted, they choose to indulge their own desires, rather than obey the law of God written in their hearts.
4. OBJECTION: But if men were not born sinners, it might be possible for someone to live their whole life absolutely free from sin, and they would not need to be saved by Christ, but could be saved by their works.
ANSWER: This objection reveals the sinister and ungodly nature of the original sin dogma. What does this objection imply? It implies that it would be criminal, wicked, and sinful for anyone to live a life without sin. It implies that men ought to be born with a sinful nature, lest it be possible for someone to live a life without sin! It implies that God wants men to be depraved sinners, that he wants them to be born with a sinful nature so that he can have the honor and glory of saving them. It implies that it would be impudence, arrogant pride, and high treason against God to live a life in humble obedience to God and never rebel against him. It implies that God would be insulted and dishonored if someone obeyed God all his life and never sinned against him. It implies that to please and glorify God we must be forced to displease and dishonor him. In a word, it implies that it would be sinful to be free to obey God. And why? Because if we were free to obey God, someone might do it and would not need to be saved. What logic! But this is an example of the type of reasoning that must be resorted to in order to defend the dogma of original sin. But we have already seen that if men are not free, and if they sin by a necessity of their nature, they cannot be responsible for their actions and their actions cannot have moral character anymore than a gun that is used to commit murder can have moral character. What? A man who must sin necessarily because of an inherited sin nature responsible and guilty for what he cannot avoid? If it were true that we were born with a nature that deprived us of the liberty and ability to obey God (which is the doctrine of Augustine and original sin), if it were true that we were born with a nature that made us disobey God, and if it were true that we were created by God under a law that made us by nature sinners and rebels, we could never in justice be blamed or punished for our sins. If we were unable by nature to obey God, sin would not be a crime, but rather a calamity. Words in the Bible like pardon and mercy would have no meaning. God would be cruel and a tyrant for condemning the unfortunate sinner to hell for what he could not avoid. The offer of mercy and pardon to the sinner would be an insult. The truth is that the doctrine of natural inability to obey God makes all the doctrines of the Bible absurd and irrational.
But the objection we are considering both assumes and demands that men be born with the natural inability to obey God, and it imputes the onus of pride, self-righteousness, and even the despising of God's gracious plan of salvation to the person who will not swallow all the absurdities of the original sin dogma. One form of this objection is put in the following insinuating question: "So you think that a person is able to live his whole life without sinning and that he can be saved by his good works?" But the stigma of pride and self-righteousness does not belong to the one who rejects the dogma of original sin, for to recognize and admit that one is the author of his own sins, that he is guilty for them, and that he is worthy of being sent to hell for them is not self-righteousness, nor is it despising God's gracious plan of salvation. It is just the opposite. It is humbling one's self in view of the guilt of one's sins, and it is acknowledging one's need of God's mercy and salvation in view of one's deserved punishment for his sins.
How ridiculous and absurd, then, is the objection that "men cannot be free and able to obey God, because if they were able, there would always be the possibility that someone might do it and would not need to be saved"! How foolish is the notion that God would be insulted, profoundly humiliated, and his government subverted and overturned if men could and did obey him! What supreme foolishness is the objection that "Someone might possibly live his whole life without sin." What! Would it really be a sin to not sin? Would it be wicked to be free and have the ability to obey God? Would God be insulted, dishonored, and confounded if someone in his kingdom lived all his life without sinning against him? Would he consider it a catastrophe of the first magnitude if someone actually did love and obey him perfectly from the cradle to the grave? It is impossible! God does not have that kind of character.
5. OBJECTION: But Paul taught that the flesh is sinful and that sin dwells in the flesh. He spoke of "sin that dwelleth in me." Rom. 7:17. He said, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing." Rom. 7:18. And he spoke of "sin which is in my members." Rom. 7:23.
ANSWER: It is true that Paul uses language in these texts that appears to teach the doctrine of a sinful, physical constitution. But the language that Paul uses is not literal; it is figurative. When the Apostle speaks of the flesh in the sense of being sinful, he is never speaking of the flesh in its literal or physical sense. This is evident from the following verses in Romans:
For when we were in the flesh... Rom. 7:5
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. Rom. 8:8
But ye are not in the flesh. Rom. 8:9
Paul teaches in these verses that the Christian is no longer "in the flesh." This makes it clear that when Paul spoke of the "flesh" in the sense of sin, he was not referring to the physical flesh because if he were, the only way that we could no longer be "in the flesh" would be to no longer be in the body. But Paul was not teaching some strange new doctrine that Christians were now disembodied spirits. He was rather teaching that they were no longer living to gratify their fleshly desires. They were no longer living in sin.
Our flesh and our bodies are not sinful in themselves, but they can be the occasion to temptation, and we can give in to temptation and present our bodies as instruments to sin, but it is we ourselves, living in our bodies, who are sinful or righteous, according to the use we make of our bodies. Rom. 6:12, 13, 19; Rom. 12:1; I Cor. 6:12, 15, 19, 20.
Paul did not condemn the flesh of man. He did not in any way condemn the physical nature of man. This is evident because he thought of our Lord Jesus Christ, who knew no sin, as a real man with human flesh. He believed in the resurrection and a life in the body afterwards. He taught that the body of man is properly the temple of the Holy Ghost, and that the body is an offering acceptable and holy to God when consecrated to his service. He taught, also, that the body is an instrument of righteousness for the Christian, and finally, he said that those who are now new creatures in Christ Jesus are no longer "in the flesh," making us understand that when he condemned the flesh and spoke of it in a derogatory way, he was not speaking of the physical flesh. Paul uses the word "flesh" to mean something very different from the physical flesh. He uses it to speak of the sinful condition of men who are completely given over to worldly and fleshly desires. And the fact that he uses the word "flesh" to speak of a past state for the Christian, telling the Christian that he is no longer "in the flesh," shows that he is not speaking of the "flesh" in its literal, physical sense. Rom. 7:5; Rom. 8:8-9.
The Apostle Paul uses this kind of figurative language throughout his epistle to the Romans. He personifies both sin and grace in Rom. 5:21 and has both sin and grace reigning at different times. He has the believer crucified and dead with Christ in Romans chapter six, and then in the same chapter, he has the believer resurrected to new life after his death and burial with Christ. But Paul did not intend for any of this to be understood in a literal or physical sense. The Christian is not literally and physically crucified with Christ. He does not literally die. He is not literally buried with Christ. Nor is he afterwards literally raised from the dead. Paul was speaking of spiritual realities and not physical realities here, and he uses the language of figure to express these spiritual realities. And so, likewise in the verses that speak of sin dwelling in his members (Rom. 7:17, 18, 23), Paul is using figurative language and does not at all mean to teach the doctrine of constitutional sinfulness.
The language of figure is used throughout the Bible. Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:17, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee." Paul said in Galatians 1:16, "I conferred not with flesh and blood." Jude said, "And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garments spotted by the flesh." Jude 23. Again, Jesus said, "Take up the cross and follow me." Mark 10:21. The writer to the Hebrews refers to "the blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Heb. 12:24. These are just a few of the numerous texts of the Bible that contain figurative language. We all know that Christ was not speaking of a literal wooden cross when he commanded us to take up our cross and follow him. We know, therefore, that Christ was speaking of it in a figurative sense. We all know that blood cannot speak. We know, therefore, that the blood of Abel and Christ speak in a figurative sense.
In the same way we know that blood does not speak, we also know that sin is not a substance or a virus or anything physical. We know that sin is not something that lives or has personality. We know that sin is a wicked choice or a wicked act committed by the sinner. It is an act or a choice that transgresses God's law and, apart from the sinner who commits the act or makes the choice, sin does not exist. Therefore, when the Bible speaks of sin as if it existed with a personality all its own and was living and dwelling and reigning in the body of the sinner, we know that the language is figurative. Its meaning is that the sinner is a slave to his lusts, that he is ruled by his passions and desires. But to teach from such texts that sin is a virus, a physical thing that can be transmitted from parents to offspring, is to ignore reality and the teaching of the Word of God on the nature of sin. Every kind of foolish and superstitious belief can be proved from the Bible if it is not interpreted according to the demands of context, language, common sense, and reality. (An illustration of this is the passage in Romans 7:24-25, which is wrongly used to teach that the Apostle Paul himself was in bondage to sin at the time he wrote his epistle to the Romans.)
Finally, those who insist that the phrases "sin that dwelleth in me" and "sin which is in my members" speak of a literal, physical fact, to be consistent, must interpret all the language of chapters 6, 7, and 8 of Romans as literal, physical fact. They must, to be consistent, teach that the Christian literally is "not in the flesh," that is, they must teach that the Christian has no body and that since the time of his salvation, he has been a disembodied spirit. To be consistent, they must teach that the Christian literally and physically was "crucified with Christ" and was "buried with Christ" and was raised from the dead to live again. And to be consistent, they must teach that all Christians are literally living in dead bodies: "And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin..." Rom. 8:10
But of course, all those who plead for the doctrine of original sin know that these verses are figurative and are used to speak of moral and spiritual changes in the believer. Then why will they not be consistent enough to take the verses in chapter 7 which speak of "sin that dwelleth in me" and "sin which is in my members" as being figurative? It can only be because of a prepossessed belief in the man-made doctrine of original sin.
6. OBJECTION: The Bible says that Levi paid tithes while yet in the loins of his father Abraham. Heb. 7:9-10. This shows that we sinned in Adam; for we were yet in his loins when he sinned.
ANSWER: But in what sense did Levi pay tithes while yet in the loins of his father Abraham? It was not in an absolute sense, which would have been impossible, because Levi had no personal existence at the time, but only in a typical sense. The point that the writer to the Hebrews wanted to make was that the Levitical priesthood was inferior to, and superseded by, the priesthood of Christ, who had an unending priesthood "after the order of Melchisedec," and to prove that the Levitical priesthood was inferior to that of Christ, he points out that Levi had descended from Abraham, who, as great as he was, had still paid tithes to Melchisedec, so that Levi also, as a descendant of Abraham (yet in the loins of Abraham when he paid tithes), was also inferior and subservient to Melchisedec and his priesthood. And in this typical sense only, as a descendant of one who had shown he was inferior and subservient to Melchisedec by paying tithes to him, had Levi paid tithes to Melchisedec.
The writer to the Hebrews shows that he is speaking of Levi paying tithes in Abraham in a typical sense by the language he uses. He says, "And as I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, paid tithes in Abraham." Heb. 7:19. The phrase "as I may so say" is a limiting or qualifying phrase, which means "I could say," or "I might say." The writer to the Hebrews never gave to his statement about Levi any other than a typical sense, otherwise he would not have limited his statement with the words, "And as I may so say..." Heb. 7:19.
To teach from this passage that either the good or the evil that our ancestors have done is actually done by us is to wrest this passage from its context and to torture it into teaching utter nonsense. For instance, such an idea would make all the descendants of a Christian automatic Christians if his children were yet in his loins when he believed. Also, it would seem to make all the descendants of one who rejects the Gospel automatic unbelievers for coming out of the loins of an unbelieving father. In fact, if this theory is true, every good act of a man or every evil act of a man is counted as done by all of his offspring. But the problem with all of this is that we know that many godly men have had descendants who were enemies of God and vice versa. Abraham is an example of this. The Bible says that Abraham believed God and that his faith was counted unto him for righteousness, and Abraham is called the father of the faithful because of his faith. But Abraham has had millions upon millions of descendants who have not believed and have been lost. Yet according to the theory under question, all of Abraham's descendants should have been justified by his faith, for they were all yet in his loins when he believed God and was justified. Esau was a descendant of Abraham but God said, "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." Rom. 9:13. God destroyed the children of Israel (who were descendants of Abraham) in the wilderness for their unbelief, even though they were "yet in the loins of Abraham" when he believed.
The problems with this nonsensical theory multiply when you realize that everyone of us have been "in the loins" of numerous ancestors going all the way back to Adam. This means that we actually participated in all the good and evil not only of Adam, but also of all our intervening ancestors as well. What an awful lot of good and evil we have done. We have all been busy for thousands of years in the loins of our ancestors doing good and evil!
Now, do we get to pick and choose among our ancestors, choosing the ancestors whose deeds we like most, or must we heap them all together and take what they all have done? I am afraid that to do the latter would make our character quite a confused and conflicting thing. What if some of our ancestors were Christians and others were unrepentant sinners? Would we balance the good ones out against the bad ones and come up with what was left over?
But the whole idea of sinning in Adam is a theological fiction that has been perpetuated to a large extent by Jerome's erroneous translation in the Latin Vulgate of Romans 5:12. He translated the Greek phrase eph o pantes hemarton by the Latin phrase in quo omnes peccaverunt, which means in whom all have sinned. This translation was in error, and Greek students agree that it was. Nevertheless, this error has helped to form and perpetuate the false doctrine that men actually sinned in Adam when he sinned.
The teaching that men sinned in Adam directly contradicts the Bible's plain teaching that men sin in themselves and not in someone else, and there is no other way that men can sin. Paul spoke in Romans 5:14 of "them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." Paul referred here to those who had sinned before the giving of the law and so had not sinned against a positive precept as Adam had, but only against the law of conscience and reason. Paul said they were sinners, but the fact that he said they had "not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression" shows that Paul did not consider the sin of Adam to be their sin. Then in Romans 9:11, Paul, speaking of Jacob and Esau in the womb of their mother Rebecca, says, "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil..." Now here were two very remarkable children who for thousands of years had been in the loins of ancestors all the way from Adam through Abraham and Isaac, and during all those thousands of years of being in the loins of different ancestors, they had never done anything good or evil. This astonishing fact is hard to reconcile with the idea that every human being was supposed to have actually sinned in Adam, and that Levi actually paid tithes in Abraham.
7. OBJECTION: But the Bible does teach that God condemns the children for the sins of the fathers. It says, "I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." Ex. 20:5.
ANSWER: It is true that this text would seem to teach that God condemns the children for the sins of their fathers, but the text itself shows that God does not visit the iniquity of the fathers upon innocent children. It is only upon those children who hate and disobey him that he visits the iniquity of the fathers.
First, we have many direct statements in the Bible which teach that God does not punish the children for the sins of the fathers. Since we have these statements, they should alert us to the fact that, if there is another scripture that seems to contradict them, somewhere we have either taken the scripture out of its context or in some other way misinterpreted it. Let us look first at some of the direct statements teaching that God does not punish the children for the sins of their fathers:
What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sours grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge? As I live, sayeth the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel...Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father?...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. Ez. 18:2, 3, 19, 20
Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like...he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. Ez. 8: 14, 17
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin. Deut. 24:16
But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law of the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin. II Chron. 25:4
From the above passages we know that it is contrary to the character of God to visit the iniquity of the fathers upon those who are innocent. When God said in Ex. 20:5 that he would visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, he was not talking of innocent or godly children. He was talking of wicked and ungodly children who were following the wicked example of their fathers. This is seen directly from the text itself, which says, "unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." The iniquity of the fathers is visited upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate God, and not upon children who are innocent and obedient to God.
Other Scriptures testify to this as well. God did not judge the innocent children of the Israelites for the sin and unbelief of their fathers. Deut. 1:39. There were wicked kings who had godly sons, and God did not judge their sons but blessed them. II Chron. Chapters 28-35. Also, Ez. 18:14, 17 declare: "Now, lo, if he beget a son that seeth all his father's sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like...he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live." All of chapter 18 of Ezekiel is written to show that the godly do not have the iniquity of their fathers visited upon them, and that every man is condemned and judged only for his own sins. The only way that the iniquity of the fathers can be visited upon the children is for the children to walk in the sins of the fathers, for to follow in the steps of our father's sins is to approve what they have done. Jesus himself taught this:
Wherefore be ye witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Matt. 23:31-35
Jesus makes the amazing statement in this passage that the scribes and Pharisees would be guilty of all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the righteous blood of Abel right on down to the righteous blood of Zacharias, whom they slew between the temple and the altar. Now, the scribes and Pharisees did not actually slay Zacharias the son of Barachias, but they had the heart of a murderer, and in a few short days they crucified the Son of God. The man who willfully takes the life of another man is giving tacit approval to every murder that has ever been committed or that ever will be committed. The rapist gives his approval to every act of rape committed, just as much as if he had committed those acts. And Jesus taught the compounded guilt of those children, who, knowing the guilt of their fathers, go on and break the same commandments. To commit the sins of our fathers is to justify their sins. It is to give tacit approval to their wickedness, and so to justly deserve that the iniquity of our fathers should be visited upon us. God never visits the iniquity of the fathers upon those who are innocent. God is just and so cannot condemn the children for the sins of their fathers, except when they willfully follow the wicked example of their fathers.
8. OBJECTION: But God can condemn the whole human race for the sin of Adam if he wants to. God is sovereign and can do anything he wants.
ANSWER: It is true that God is sovereign, but it is not true that he is sovereign in the grotesque sense in which the advocates of original sin make him out to be. To say that God is sovereign in the sense that he can work injustice, unrighteousness, and sin is to slander the holy name of God.
The idea that God's sovereignty gives him the liberty to work unrighteousness is blasphemous and contrary to scripture: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Gen. 18:25. God is not sovereign and has never claimed to be sovereign in such a grotesque sense. But the doctrine of the above objection is that God can do what all men know to be unjust that is, condemn the whole human race for the sin of one man and still be just and righteous because he is sovereign. It is unbelievable that Christians, in order to defend the doctrine of original sin, would so demean the character of God. Sheldon says:
The same God whose penetrating glance burns away every artifice with which a man may enwrap himself, and reaches at once to the naked reality, is represented as swathing His judgment with a gigantic artifice, in that He holds countless millions guilty of a trespass which He knows was committed before their personal existence, and which they could no more prevent than they could hinder the fiat of creation. If this is justice, then justice is a word of unknown meaning. Sane men condemn the savagery of the tribe which treats all of a nation as enemies because one or more of its representatives has offended. Shall sane men, then, think of the holy God as condemning a race in advance of its existence because of the sin of one? God's ways are indeed above man's. But they must be supposed to lie in the direction of man's best conceptions of justice and righteousness. To impute an unethical arbitrariness to God is to assail faith in the very idea of a perfect being.
Those who heartily believe in the doctrine of original sin and believe that God condemned the whole human race for the sin of Adam "because he is sovereign and can do whatever he wants to" must have about the same concept of God as the heathen had of their false gods. They must fear him because he is sovereign and has infinite power over them. However, it must be difficult to love him with the overflowing love that comes from a confidence and a delight in his moral perfections, since they believe a doctrine that requires them to make the excuse that "God can do anything he wants because he is sovereign."
God cannot make evil become good and good become evil by a sovereign decree. He is not sovereign in the sense that his "might makes right." He cannot make a law that says, "Thou shalt lie, steal, blaspheme my holy name, commit adultery, work evil, and hate your fellow man." God is sovereign, but he cannot do anything sinful or unjust just "because he is sovereign." The universal law of love and righteousness is his law as much as it is the law of all his creatures. God does not make evil right by an arbitrary decree, and for him to sovereignly decree a law which were contrary to his nature and the nature of his creatures would be as much sin in him as it would be in any of his creatures. God cannot and will not sin against the righteousness of his nature. He will not put darkness for light, falsehood for truth, evil for good, or unrighteousness for righteousness.
To defend the obvious unrighteousness of the original sin dogma by saying that "God can do whatever he wants because he is sovereign" is to demean the holy name of God. The doctrine of original sin is infinitely dishonorable to God. It makes him arbitrary, tyrannical, unjust, and cruel in his sovereignty. God has never claimed to be sovereign in an arbitrary sense, in the sense that he can do whatever he wills, even if it is unholy, unjust, or unrighteousness. God is sovereign, and justly so, because all his ways conform to truth, holiness, and righteousness.
9. OBJECTION: You depend too much on reason. You should only use the Scriptures to prove the doctrines of the Bible. If you depend on reason, you will be led into error.
ANSWER: Would the advocates of the doctrine of original sin object to reason if the doctrine of original sin were reasonable? Why do the advocates of original sin object to reason? It is because the dogma of original sin contradicts reason! If our reason told us that it would be just for a whole race to be condemned for the sin of one man, would they then object to reason? If our reason told us that the heathen could justly be born sinners, commit sin because of an inborn sin nature, die in their sins without a knowledge of the gospel and a chance to be saved, and then be justly condemned to the everlasting punishment of hell, would they then object to reason? If our reason told us that moral character or sin, with its guilt and condemnation, could be passed on in the physical constitution of man, would they then object to reason? If our reason told us that a non-moral and non-personal entity called "flesh" could, contrary to its nature, take on personality and moral character and be sinful, would they then object to reason? No. They object to reason because they know the original sin dogma is absurd and unreasonable.
In regard to using only the Scriptures to prove the doctrines of the Bible, almost any false doctrine can be proved by quoting texts from the Bible, if those texts are quoted without paying attention to context and language. We can confirm this fact by pointing to the many false cults which appeal to Bible texts in order to verify their false teachings. So, should we object to reason when it tells us that a doctrine cannot be true that is supported by proof-texts from the Bible which have been taken out of context, and which are used without any regard to literal or figurative language or the general theme of the passage from which they are taken, and which then "prove" a doctrine that directly contradicts many other clear texts and fundamental doctrines of the Bible? Must we throw out reason when we come to the Bible? Is there something inherently evil about the faculty of reason? Are ordinary common sense and the understanding that God has given us to be despised and rejected when we come to the Bible? No! The Scriptures never require us to believe anything which the constitution of our own nature as created by God forces us to reject as false, unjust, or impossible. The fundamental truths of Christianity cannot be in manifest contradiction to reason, and yet the original sin dogma does contradict reason and man's irresistible convictions of justice.
10. OBJECTION: In the Bible, the word sin in the singular refers to a sin principle that dwells in us, or to original sin; and the word sins in the plural refers to "actual sins" that flow from the sin principle we have inherited from Adam.
ANSWER: Some advocates of original sin try to make out a distinction in the Bible between "sin" in the singular and "sins" in the plural. According to them, the word sin in the singular refers to the "sin principle," the "Adamic sin nature," "inbred sin," or "original sin," but the word "sins" in the plural refers to the acts of sin that flow from the "Adamic nature" or the "principle of sin" that dwells in man's flesh. This distinction between "sin" in the singular and "sins" in the plural is completely artificial and unbiblical. There is no mention of such a distinction in the Bible.
There is a biblical sense in which sin is and must be a principle. It is a principle because it flows from a single ruling choice of the heart or will. Rom. 7:17; Rom. 7:23; Rom. 8:2, 6, 7, 10. Both Jesus and the Apostles taught that there can only be one ruling choice of the heart or will at a time. If the choice or principle that controls the life is selfishness, all the volitions and acts of the life will be selfish. If the ruling choice of the heart is love to God and others, all the volitions and acts of the life will be virtuous. Two opposing choices or principles cannot control the life at the same time. One must be given up for the other. "No man can serve two masters." "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Matt. 6:24. The following verses of the Bible teach the truth that all the acts of men proceed from one single governing choice of the heart, and that, therefore, there cannot be a divided or partial service to God:
Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. Matt. 12:33-35 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit, a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Matt.7:17,18
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either the vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh. James 3:11, 12
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Matt. 6:22-24
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust in much. Luke 16:10
Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. James 2:10
All sin and all virtue flow from the fountainhead of the heart or will. When the heart is committed to the supreme and ultimate choice of selfishness, all the outworkings of that one ruling choice will be to gratify self in the various forms that selfishness may take. A selfish person cannot please or obey God because all his acts, even though many may be outwardly righteous, are motivated by a heart consecrated to self. Paul said, "The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." Rom. 8:7, 8. The "carnal mind" in this passage is speaking of a ruling preference of the heart that is carnal, selfish, or sinful. While a man has a "carnal mind" it is impossible for him to obey God, please God, or do anything good.
All sin is a unit and all virtue is a unit that flows from one supreme and ultimate choice of the will. There cannot be two opposite choices ruling the life at the same time. There cannot be a mixed or a partial consecration and service to God. There can only be one single governing choice of the heart; either love to God and others rule the life, or selfishness rules the life.
Many people in the churches today are deceived on this point. They believe that God can and does accept a partial consecration of their life to him. but God will accept nothing less than a total dedication of ourselves to him, according to our knowledge of his will. James 2:10; Luke 14:26, 27, 33. Anything less than a total dedication of what we know to be the will of God is motivated by selfishness, and "if therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness." Matt. 6:23. 11. OBJECTION: The doctrine of original sin has been believed by the Church Universal for almost 2000 years. How could you and a few others be right, and everyone else be wrong?
ANSWER: This objection is considered by many to be conclusive "How could the Church Universal be in error for almost 2000 years? How could you be right and everyone else be wrong?"
The multitudes have been wrong before while the few have been right, and the Church Universal has been wrong before, protecting and giving sanction to error while resisting and persecuting the few who have proclaimed the truth. Copernicus and Galileo are well-known examples of this. Galileo taught the truth that the sun does not go around the earth, but that the earth goes around the sun, and that the earth spins upon its axis, giving the illusion that the sun is going around the earth. But even though he taught the truth, the church resisted it and persecuted him because from the second century A.D. on, the church had believed the theory of Ptolemy that the earth was the unmoving center of the universe, and that the sun moved around the earth. Copernicus had already proven that the theory of Ptolemy was wrong, but the church rejected his proof because it did not fit in with what it had believed for 1400 years. Galileo then constructed a telescope and was able to demonstrate that Copernicus was right and that Ptolemy had been wrong all those 1400 years. Instead of saying, "Thank you for correcting our wrong beliefs," the Church Universal promptly put Copernicus' work on its index of prohibited books and warned Galileo to abandon his opinions and to abstain from teaching, defending, or discussing them anymore. Galileo invited some scientists and members of the Catholic clergy to look into his telescope and prove for themselves that what he had said was the truth, but some of them refused because they were afraid that their beliefs would be proven wrong. Galileo was persistent and wrote a book proving the falseness of the view which had been held by the Church Universal for 1400 years. This brought him under the wrath of the church. His book was banned by the church, he was tried and found guilty by the Church Inquisition, he was compelled to recant of all his Copernican doctrines, and he spent the last eight years of his life under house arrest. It was 200 years later, in 1835, that the works of Copernicus and Galileo were finally removed from the Church's index of prohibited books.
So the idea that the many are always right, and the few are always wrong is false and invalid. If the argument that "the many must be right and the few must be wrong" is valid and conclusive, then Martin Luther and the other Reformers were totally deceived, and the whole Protestant Movement is a false movement built upon error. For Martin Luther and a few other Reformers stood alone against the whole Church Universal to overthrow errors that had been taught and believed for almost 1,500 years. There are other examples, as well. Jesus stood alone against the man-made traditions and prejudiced teachings of the whole Jewish Ecclesiastical Body of the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the High Priests. Also, the idea that the earth was flat and that sailors were in danger of sailing off the edge of the world was a universal belief for hundreds of years.
The idea that "the majority must be right" or that "long held tradition is proof of truth" is not a logical conclusion. And when evidence is presented which shows that a long held view is in error or that a view held by the majority is in error, it should not be rejected by appealing to the false logic that "a belief held by the majority for a long time is proof of its truth."
12. OBJECTION: The Jews believed in the doctrine of original sin at the time of Jesus. They said to the man born blind: "Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?" John 9:34. This verse shows that the doctrine of original sin is true.
ANSWER: This verse does not teach that there was a belief in the doctrine of original sin at the time of Jesus, nor does it teach that the religious leaders believed in original sin. If anything, it teaches the exact opposite, because if the religious leaders had believed in original sin, they would have been forced to say something like this: "Well, you have as much right to teach us as we do to teach you, since we are all, altogether born in sins." But they were not, in any way, including themselves in this thing of being "altogether born in sins." They were excluding themselves and limiting it only to the man born blind.
What they really were saying was this: "You're a vile, despicable sinner, and you presume to teach us? We are holy and righteous before God and will you who was altogether born in sins presume to teach us?" They were not teaching the doctrine of original sin anymore than David taught it when he said of himself, "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." In fact, they meant to say the same thing about the man born blind that David meant to say about himself. David meant to say that he was a vile and despicable sinner and guilty before God, and they meant to say the same thing about the man born blind. But they, in no way, meant to include themselves with the man born blind and teach that they also were "altogether born in sins."
The above text no more teaches the doctrine of original sin than the question the disciples asked Christ teaches it. "Master, who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Christ answered their question with the words, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents." John 9:3.
We must be careful not to make doctrines out of either the statements of false religious leaders or the speculative questions of Christ's disciples.
In darkness it lurks behind a mask of decency and respectibility fashioned of biblical proof-texts.
It cringes and pulls away when the brilliant light of Bible truth falls upon it.
It retreats to the shadows when the dazzling light of reason and common sense approaches.
It flees and hides from the glaring gaze of close scrutiny.
And there in the darkness it skulks, fearful that its mask be torn away, and it, at last, without its covering, wither and die under the burning light of truth.
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