Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Original Sin: True or False?

What Is Original Sin?
            All of us are sinners. We all have a corrupted nature that motivates us to sin. Our sinfulness or sinful nature precludes our allegiance to the various religious worldviews. In other words, a Christian subscribing to Historic Christianity would believe that all of us, irrespective of our religious worldviews, are sinners because we have a sinful nature.

            If all of us are sinners, there may be a common factor that leads us all to sin. This common factor is often referred to as the Original Sin. Original sin is the dimension of sin with which we begin life or the effect the sin of Adam has upon us as a precondition of our lives.1

Biblical Basis For Original Sin
            Romans chapter 5:12-19 is a key passage that offers us the answer:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned— To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (NIV)
            So this is how we could understand original sin:2

            1. The Bible maintains that because of Adam’s sin all persons receive a corrupted nature and are guilty in God’s sight as well.

            2. We were involved, although not personally, and are responsible for the sin.

            3. With this matter of guilt, however, just as with the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, there must be some conscious and voluntary decision on our part to sin. Until we sin, there is only a conditional imputation of guilt.

            4. Thus there is no condemnation until one reaches the age of responsibility. The Bible also says that children are not under God’s condemnation for this sin, at least not until attaining an age of responsibility in moral and spiritual matters. If a child dies before becoming capable of making genuine moral decisions, the contingent imputation of Adamic sin does not become actual, and the child will be with God forever in heaven.

Is Original Sin An Essential Doctrine Of Historic Christianity?

            Christian apologist, William Lane Craig, asserts that the original sin is not an essential doctrine of Historic Christianity, “…the doctrine that the sin of Adam is imputed to all men is far from universally held among Christians and so is not essential to Christianity. The doctrine is also weakly attested biblically, so that personally I remain quite open-minded about it. In short, you don’t have to accept this doctrine in order to become a Christian…”3

            Apparently, not all Christian denominations subscribe to the doctrine of original sin, “…in all the Eastern Orthodox confessions, such as Greek, Russian, and Syrian Orthodox churches, original sin is taken to be merely a sort of corruption introduced into the human race by Adam for which we are not culpable. Many Protestants, of course, will also deny the imputation of Adam’s sin….biblically faithful believers may adopt any of a variety of views on the question of original sin.”4

            These words of Dr. James Tour – one of the world’s most influential scientists – alludes to the presence of essential and not-so-essential doctrines, “As a scientist and a Christian (Messianic Jew), I am unsure of many things in both science and faith. But my many questions are not fundamental to my salvation. Salvation is based upon the finished work of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah), my confession in him as Savior and my belief in his physical resurrection from the dead…”5

            Is the doctrine of original sin essential to the sustenance of Historic Christianity? I do not think so.

            I believe in the doctrine of the original sin. But I also understand that this doctrine is not as crucial (for salvation) as that of believing in the birth, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

            So those who do not believe in the doctrine of original sin would still go to heaven because they believe and love the Lord Jesus Christ. These Christian brothers and sisters will go to heaven as long as they do not deny any essential doctrines e.g. the birth, death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In fact, there are a few doctrines that one need not believe in order to be a Christian.

Why Is Original Sin Not Essential To Christianity?

            A simple answer to this question is because my belief in the doctrine of original sin does not affect my salvation. In other words, I would be saved, even if I do not believe in original sin because my salvation is predicated on my belief in the Triune God and the Lord Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross of Calvary.

            It’s acceptable that Christians do not believe in the doctrine of original sin. But it’s not acceptable if Christians do not believe in sin.

            Sin is an assault on God. We sin when we disobey God. Since God exists, sin also exists because human beings, having been created with freewill, have the ability to obey and disobey God. Therefore, Christians cannot claim that there is no sin.

            However, we could agree to disagree about the other aspects of sin, such as its origin etc. The first instance of sin was in the heavenly realms when Satan and his angelic cohorts rebelled against God. Then sin infiltrated into the human realm when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. This is a common understanding of the origin of sin.

            However, if some Christians have a different understanding of sin’s origin, then there is always enough room to accommodate/endure such theological differences because these differences do not undermine Historic Christianity. Furthermore, disagreements on fringe doctrines cannot promote or relegate anyone or any group as theologically superior or inferior, respectively.

            So as long as a Christian believes that we are capable of sinning and that the consequence of our sin is alienation from God (wages of sin is death), he/she is doing well in his/her Christian faith. This is the bare essential, within the context of sin and salvation, to be a Christian.

Conclusion: Is Original Sin True Or False?

            We can always agree to disagree on doctrines that are not central to Historic Christianity. Those who disagree about the doctrine of original sin or any other fringe doctrines cannot be relegated to any superior or inferior status whatsoever.

            I believe in the doctrine of original sin, but at the same time, I am aware that there are many sincere Christians who do not believe or disagree with the doctrine of original sin.

            That’s okay.


1Christian Theology, Second Ed., Millard J. Erickson, p648.

2Ibid, p655-656.




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