Taken from “The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature” by Jesse Morrell
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This appendix has been rewritten and expanded to be its own book, “Does Man Inherit A Sinful Nature?”
Does Man Inherit A Sinful Nature by Jesse Morrell is a thorough examination and refutation to one of the oldest theological excuses for sin – a sinful nature. With an abundance of scripture, keen logic, and an appeal to Christian teachers throughout history, this book not only shows that men are not born with a sinful nature but that sin is actually contrary to the nature God gave us.
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DOES MAN INHERIT
A SINFUL NATURE?
As we saw in the book, the doctrine of free will, which was held by early Christianity, was eventually replaced with the Gnostic doctrine of a sinful nature through the contribution and influence of Augustine. Augustinians, Lutherans, and Calvinists teach that man’s nature is so sinful and corrupt that man cannot choose what is good. This is why, when the topic of man’s natural ability is brought up, the question about man’s nature in general is usually introduced to the discussion.
Just as natural inability is commonly used by sinners as an excuse for sinning, so also a “sinful nature” is a common excuse for their sin. I regularly hear sinners justifying their sin by saying, “Sin is human nature.” Instead of taking full responsibility by saying, “Sin is my choice,” they blame their Creator by saying, “Sin is my nature.” Instead of humbly admitting that sin is the choice of their will, they comfort themselves by saying that sin is the defect of their God given nature.
As long as men try to convince their minds that sin is not their fault, they will never admit that they deserve punishment and, consequently, need the atonement of Christ. If men are convinced that sin is not their fault, then they can never be convinced that they deserve punishment for it. Only those who deserve wrath are in need of mercy. Only those who deserve damnation are in need of salvation. Therefore, those people who are convinced that sin is not their fault but is the defect of their nature, instead of the deliberation of their will, must be shown otherwise.
As already mentioned in this book, effective communication necessitates the defining of words. Therefore, the word “nature” must first be defined before we can ask if man inherits a “sinful nature.” Your nature defined is your constitution, make up, structure, design, composition, substance, and essence. Human nature would include our faculties of intelligence, emotion, free will, and all of the elements of spirit, soul, and body. Our constitution is both physical and spiritual. Therefore, to ask if man has a “sinful nature,” is to ask if man’s design is evil, if his composition is sinful, or if his constitution and substance is morally wicked.
God Gives Us Our Nature
First, we must understand that God is the author of our nature. God is the cause of our constitution. Neither Adam nor the devil forms our nature. The Bible says that God personally forms us in the womb (Gen. 4:1; Ex. 4:11; Isa. 27:11; 43:7; 49:5; 64:8; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 95:6; 127:3; 139:13-14, 16; Ecc. 7:29; Job 10:9-11; 31:15; 35:10; Jn. 1:3). “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works…” (Ps. 139:14)
God did not merely create Adam and then step back as Deism claims. Our nature is not the product of mere “natural generation” as if God was not involved in our formation. God is personally the Creator of all. The development of a child inside the womb is a miracle. It is supernatural. The work of designing and creating a baby, physically and spiritually, is God’s own personal work. That is why God takes personal responsibility for our condition at birth (Exo. 4:11; Prov. 20:12).
To say that God only created the natures of Adam and Eve is a deistic perspective. A proper theistic view says that God is the creator of every man’s nature. The Bible says, “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:9). “For by him were all things created… all things were created by him… by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17). The “all things” that have been made by Christ include all the human natures which are made and created inside the womb.
We Were Designed For Holiness
Mankind is described as being made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7). The Bible says that men are “made after the similitude of God” (Jas. 3:9), even after the fall of Adam. That is why when it comes to sin, the Bible says that sin is actually contrary to human nature (Rom. 1:26-27). God wanted mankind to imitate Him in choosing holiness (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26; Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:16). God did not design us to live wickedly. Therefore, sin is an abuse and misuse of our created constitution.
God did not intend or plan for us to use our mental, moral, spiritual, or physical abilities for sin. That is why the Bible says that sin is “against nature.” Sinners choose to do “that which is against nature.” Through the freedom of their will, they choose to do what is contrary to their design. It was never God’s intention for man to sin. It was not His plan for mankind to be sinful (Gen. 6:5-6; Matt. 25:41; Eph. 1:4; 1 Thes. 4:3). God actually would have preferred a sinless universe that needed no atonement at all (1 Sam. 15:22). Since sin was contrary to God’s plan or intention for mankind, God has made sin contrary to the design of our constitution.
God never intended for us to use our constitution for sin. On the contrary, He wants us to use our members for righteousness (Rom. 6:13, 19; Rom.12:1; 1 Thes. 4:3-4). Paul said, “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thes. 4:3-4). Our constitution was not designed for sin, but sin is contrary to the intended use of our nature, because God is our designer.
Harry Conn said, “…any sin is not natural to man, but is a violation of his created design.”1 Jed Smock said, “Sin is a perversion of our nature. We were not designed to sin. We were designed to live holy. And sin is using our nature selfishly instead of using our human nature lovingly.”2 He also said, “…as an automobile is not designed to be used as a tractor, our minds and bodies are not designed to plow the fields of sin… sin is contrary to man’s design and nature.”3
The Bible teaches that God never planned, intended, designed, desired, or caused men to sin (Gen. 6:5-6). Nothing could have been further from God’s intention and design for mankind than wickedness. Therefore, nothing could be more unnatural for man than sin. A man who lives sinfully is living unnaturally.
Conscience Is A Faculty Of Our Nature
A man who lives holy is actually living in accordance with his nature. That is, our nature demands us to walk in holiness. God designed our constitution or nature with a conscience so that we have the natural tendency, a constitutional bent, or a compositional influence to obey the law of God. Paul said, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law are a law unto themselves: which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Rom. 2:14-15).
The truths of conscience are often referred to as “natural revelation” or “the light of nature.” Our natural composition gives us a natural disposition, or a constitutional inclination, to obey the law of God. By divine design we have a constitutional bias against sin. God has designed our nature to be in favor of virtue by writing His law upon our hearts. Therefore, men sin against their better knowledge.
Sin is described as being unintelligent (Matt. 7:24-27). Sin is to choose against what you know to be right. Sin is to choose what you know to be wrong. “Jesus said unto them, if ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth” (Jn. 9:41). “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17).
The declaration that “all have sinned,” therefore, presupposes that “all” know the law of God through their conscience, as only those who have knowledge are capable of rebelling against it. Therefore, the very declaration that “all have sinned” is a declaration that God has designed the constitution of all men to be against sin, since God has given the light of conscience to all. “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn. 1:9). Some suppose the fact that “all have sinned” implies that sin is natural for all, or that all men have a sinful nature. But in reality, it shows the opposite. This is because “all have sinned” implies that conscience is part of the nature of all, and therefore that sin is contrary to the nature of all. .
When a man sins, his own “thoughts” the Bible says accuse him. His own conscience or nature is “bearing witness” against him (Rom. 2:15). Deep inside man, within his very essence or embedded in the nature God has given him, there is the still small voice of conscience that cries against his every act of sin and commands obedience to the moral law of God. Therefore, a sinner chooses contrary to the influence of his nature.
Every sinner is at variance with his conscience. A sinner is fighting against his moral knowledge. He has mutinied against the light of nature! He is at war with his own constitution! Truly, “the way of the transgressor is hard” (Prov. 13:15). God has built into us road blocks for the path of sin. Men sin against the nature that God has given them. In order for a man to rebel against God, they have to literally rebel against their own nature.
Free To Obey Or Disobey Our Nature
Irenaeus said, “Men are possessed with free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad.”4 Even Augustine at one point said, “Sin is volitionary. No one is compelled by his nature to sin.”5 On the other hand, Martin Luther said that man “must will, desire, and act according to his nature…”6
The doctrine of the Necessitarians is that the will of a being is necessitated by the nature that the being has. The mode of the wills operation is that of necessity. The doctrine of Libertarians, however, is that the will of a being is free to act according to or contrary to the nature that they have. The nature one has may influence their will, but it does not cause their choices. The mode of the wills operation is that of liberty. The doctrine of the former and not of the latter is what is affirmed by the Scriptures.
If the will of a being was not free, but was necessitated by their nature, the fall of angels and men would have never occurred. Sin is the proof of free will. When God created everything He said it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Lucifer himself was created as an angel, not as a demon, who had a good nature. The Bible says, “Thou wast perfect in all thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Eze. 28:15). Lucifer became a devil by sinning against his nature. His sin was not the creation of God but was his own creation. His sin and character was not the product of his nature, but was the product of his will. The Bible says, “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isa. 14:13-14).
Your nature does not cause your will, that is, the state of your nature does not necessitate the choices of your will. The will is free to choose according to or contrary to your nature (Rom. 1:26-27). The relation between your nature and your will is not causation but influence. That is, your nature may influence your choices but it does not cause your choices. The choices of the will are self-determined. Free will is the power of self-determination. The faculty of the will freely originates choices.
The rebellion of Lucifer was not committed by any necessity of his nature but occurred through the freedom of his will. Likewise, God created Adam and Eve with a good nature. Yet despite their good nature, they sinned. Their will was free to choose according to or contrary to their nature. The tragedy of mankind is that God has created every single one of us, like He created our first parents, and we too have freely chosen to sin against our nature, just like our first parents.
Sin Is Unnatural
The fact that men naturally feel guilty for their sin is proof that it is not man’s nature to sin. The reason that we naturally feel guilty if we sin is because God is the author of our nature and He has designed us for holiness, not for sin.
Alfred T. Overstreet said, “God created all men with a good nature. All sin is a corruption of man’s nature, it is a perversion of man’s nature. It is rebellion against our nature – it is rebellion against the ‘law of God written in our hearts’ and against the God who has written his law in our hearts.”7 He also said, “The nature we are born with teaches us to reject evil and choose good… Men must go against their nature to sin.”8
Winkie Pratney said, “God made human nature; God did not make sin! Sin is never natural. It is horribly un-natural. Sin is never ‘human’. It is horribly in-human. Sin creates remorse, guilt, and shame; every time a man feels these three witnesses in his soul, they tell him sin is not natural. Even the simple lie-detector can tell us this. The whole body reacts adversely when a man sins… God never planned sin for man. It is the most un-natural thing in the moral Universe… Do not dare say sin is ‘natural’! God hates sin with perfect hatred; He loves humanity.”9
Jed Smock said, “Sin is unnatural. Whatever the sin might be, it is unnatural. It is contrary to our nature to have sex with the opposite sex outside of marriage. That’s contrary to our nature. It is contrary to our nature to lie, to steal. That is why when you first started lying or stealing, you had a guilty conscience…. A guilty conscience is to your soul what pain is to your body. You get pain around your heart especially, you think I better get a check up, that’s not normal, something is wrong… You get a guilty conscience, your conscience is trying to tell you your behavior is wrong. You weren’t designed to lie, steal, or cheat, or fornicate, whatever it is your doing that’s selfish.”10
Charles Finney said, “The constitution of a moral being as a whole, when all the powers are developed, does not tend to sin, but strongly in an opposite direction…”11
When conscience is developed, a man’s own nature stands against him when he sins. His own constitution and composition fights him and condemns him. But when he obeys his conscience and does what is right, he has perfect peace of mind. As Paul said, “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ, who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
We know experientially through consciousness that we have been so created by God that we naturally feel the pains of conscience when we do what is wrong and we naturally have peace of mind when we do what is right. When the idea of right and wrong is developed within the mind, or when we have a developed conscience with moral principles, we naturally feel good when we choose to do what is right and we naturally feel bad when we choose to do what is wrong. It is not by choice that we feel that way, it is by nature. By divine design, our sensibilities naturally respond or react when our will chooses contrary to or in conformity with the knowledge of our mind.
Gordon C. Olson said, “God endowed man’s constitution with profound abilities and reactions to enable him to achieve great heights of comprehension and moral character in imitation of his Creator. Just as virtuous actions would deposit uplifting characteristics in the inner personality, so sinful indulgences would degrade our inner being and bring about disturbing agitations.”12
Our Conscience Delights in the Law
Romans chapter seven gives us a description of what occurs when the mind of an unconverted sinner is convicted by the law. Using a literary technique, Paul uses the present tense to tell the narrative. As many stories begin with “once upon a time,” Paul said, “For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). He then proceeded in his narrative to discuss what happens when an unconverted sinner encounters the law of God.
Some suppose Romans chapter seven to be a description of the Christian life, as opposed to a description of an unconverted state. But we know Paul is not referring to his own converted state because he already said that Christians have been made “free from sin” (Rom. 6:18, 22). The man in Romans seven was not “free from sin” and, therefore, he was not a Christian.
Paul also said that, “There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom.8:1). Yet the man in Romans chapter seven was under condemnation and therefore needed to be saved by Jesus (Rom. 7:24-25).
And Paul said that, “to be carnally minded is death” (Rom.8:6). But the man in Romans chapter seven said, “I am carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7:14). Therefore, the man in Romans chapter seven did not have eternal life.
And finally, Paul said that as a converted man he lived with a good and pure conscience that was void of offense (Acts 23:1; Acts 24:16; 2 Tim. 1:3). The man described in Romans chapter seven is deeply disturbed by his conscience (Rom. 7:16). Therefore, the description given in Romans chapter seven was not of the converted life of the Apostle Paul. It is a narration describing what happens when an unconverted sinner’s mind encounters the law of God and is convicted by it.
In this chapter we can see that even an unconverted transgressor can say, “I consent unto the law that it is good” (Rom. 7:16). This is because of the law of his mind (Rom. 7:23). A sinner can say, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Rom. 7:22). This is a classic way of referring to our God given conscience. The conscience of a sinner consents unto the goodness of the law and even delights in it. It is natural and normal for a man’s conscience to do this.
The supernatural revelation of “thou shalt not” given in the Ten Commandments is automatically affirmed by the natural revelation of our conscience. If the unregenerate did not consent unto the goodness law, they could never be convicted and, consequently, they never could be converted. Conviction is necessarily antecedent to conversion. Conversion proceeds from conviction; and therefore, conviction must precede conversion.
The unregenerate could never feel guilty or be convinced that they are justly condemned for violating the law, if their conscience did not consent to the goodness of the law. A man would feel justified in violating a bad law, but a man would feel condemned for violating a good law. If the law is wrong, the transgressor is right. If the law is right, the transgressor is wrong. A man can only feel guilty, and his mind can only recognize that he was wrong for his transgression, if his mind is first convinced that the law which was violated was a good law. Therefore, God created us with a natural recognition of the goodness of His law. He has created us with a natural approval of what is right.
While sinners are voluntarily hostile in their will toward holiness, they necessarily approve in their conscience of holiness. The will of a sinner rejects what his mind approves of. Charles Finney said, “Moral agents are so constituted, that they necessarily approve of moral worth or excellence; and when even sinners behold right character, or moral goodness, they are compelled to respect and approve it, by a law of their intelligence… The vilest sinners on earth or in hell have, by an unalterable constitution of their nature, the necessity imposed upon them, of paying intellectual homage to moral excellence… But this being altogether an involuntary state of mind, has no moral character.”13
Since God has created our nature with a conscience, or a natural knowledge of right and wrong, we naturally approve of the moral attributes of God and other benevolent beings. And we naturally disapprove of the character of the devil and other selfish beings. God is good because He loves. He lives for the good of everyone. The devil is evil because He is selfish. He lives supremely for his own good. Our constitution has been so designed by God to approve of the good and to disapprove of the evil. We naturally know that benevolence is right and selfishness is wrong. God is good and therefore, He designed us that way.
Epic tales of good vs. evil in both literature andHollywooddepend upon mankind’s ability to distinguish between good and evil. They depend upon mankind’s natural approval of the good and natural disapproval of evil. Think of any famous tale of good vs. evil. Think of any story that has a “good guy” and a “bad guy.” What was it that made the “good guy” so good? It was that he cared about other people. We naturally know what the Bible says, that love is the fulfillment of the law (Rom. 13:10; Gal. 5:14). And what was it that made the “bad guy” so bad? It was that he cared supremely for himself and disregarded the well-being of others.
As God’s creation, we naturally admire and respect a man’s good moral character and naturally abhor and disrespect a man’s evil moral character. Through our conscience, we naturally know that a benevolent being is a good being, and that a selfish being is an evil being. It is because of our conscience, or the natural moral knowledge God has given us, that we naturally approval of what is right or good, and we naturally disapprove of what is evil or wrong. It is our human nature to approve of what is good and to disapprove of what is evil.
Broadcasted through the airwaves each year are pictures and videos of suffering children and starving masses across our world. Which heart does not naturally break at the sight of such agony, grief, and misfortune? These commercials are meant to be appeals to our “humanity.” God designed us with a natural compassion for the weak, hurting, and dying. The tragedy of humanity is that despite our humanity, despite our natural compassion, men still choose to be selfish and wicked. The wickedness of man is despite our nature, not because of it.
I remember as a young child on the playground of my elementary school seeing a little boy being picked on by another boy. I remember being naturally outraged at the abuse the child was suffering by the bully. I naturally knew that the way he was being treated by the bully was wrong. Consequently, I naturally felt upset over it. Having care and concern for the young and innocent is a “natural affection” (Rom. 1:31; 2 Tim. 3:3). These thoughts and feelings I had were not originated by my own choice but were the result of the design of God. It was by nature and not by choice that I was disturbed over this unjust treatment. It is natural to be upset over the abuse an innocent person suffers at the hands of a bully. It is unnatural not to be.
I can also remember when my brother and I were very young children and our mother took us for a walk to the local corner store. My brother wanted a candy bar but my mother denied his request. After getting back home, my mother saw my brother walking around with the candy bar. My mother asked, “Where did you get that?” Apparently he had stolen it. Immediately my brother burst into tears. Obviously, nobody had to teach my brother to cry or even tell my brother to cry. It came naturally. His conscience convicted him. Eventually he remorsefully confessed to stealing the candy.
My brother felt awful about his theft and I did too. I remembered how nice and friendly the owner of the store had always been to us. I felt very bad that my brother would steal from him. My mother had my brother walk back to the store, return the candy bar, and apologize to the owner. Both my brother and I had very sensitive consciences. It is natural to feel bad for sin. It is unnatural not to.
Corrupting Your Conscience
Through the habitual choice of sin, a moral being is capable of numbing their conscience. Through continually ignoring the claims and demands of your conscience, you can desensitize yourself so that you have a seared conscience (1 Tim. 2:4). This state of insensitivity is not a natural state, but an unnatural state. It is a degenerate state which is arrived at through habitual choice. Men must corrupt themselves to be in such a state.
God speaks aboutIsraelafter they continually rebelled against Him and said, “Where they ashamed when they had committed abominations? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Jer. 6:15; 8:12). This state of being is not how God made them or how they were born. It was how they made themselves through their own free will.
Extreme cases of this degenerate state would be sociopaths and serial killers. Of course, these are the exceptions and not the rule for mankind. The average or normal person does feel good when doing right and feels bad when doing wrong. That is normal or natural and anything else is abnormal and unnatural.
Virtue Relates To Choices Not Constitution
It should be understood that a man is not virtuous because he feels bad for doing wrong. Even the unconverted naturally feel bad for doing wrong. That is a natural reaction that our sensibilities have in response to our consciousness of the choices of our will which were contrary to the moral knowledge of our mind. Our feelings naturally react when our will chooses to obey or disobey our conscience.
But moral character is not determined by the states of the sensibilities but by the states of the will. Whether a man is good or evil is not determined by his nature but by his choices. A man is virtuous if he actually chooses what is virtuous. A man is not virtuous because he has a natural approval of virtue or because sin is against his nature and design. His will is free to live according to his nature or to choose that which is against his nature. Man’s character is derived from his will choosing according to or contrary to the conscience God created as part of his nature.
Hypothetically, suppose God formed individuals in the womb with “sinful inclinations.” Would that mean that they were born sinful or born sinners? No, because a person is not sinful or a sinner merely because of the inclinations they are created and designed with. It is not a sin to have an inclination towards sin. If it is an inclination “towards sin,” then by definition, it is not a sin itself but only an inclination towards sin. An inclination towards sin would be a temptation and not a sin because it is merely an influence to make a sinful choice and not a sinful choice itself.
If God formed infants in the womb with a nature that had sinful inclinations, that does not mean that they are born sinners or born sinful because moral character is not predicated upon a person’s inclinations but upon their choices. This is evident from the fact that if a person is created with sinful inclinations, but they make holy choices, their character is holy and not sinful. Likewise, if a person is created with holy inclinations, but they make sinful choices, their moral character is sinful and not holy. Moral character is not determined by your constitutional inclinations or by what your nature inclines you towards. Moral character is determined by your personal free will choices or by what you actually choose to live for.
Gordon C. Olson said, “Moral character must be a voluntary choice of the person involved, as distinguished from a constitutional trait or natural attribute. A natural attribute is something we cannot help. It is an essential part of our beings, involuntary. Moral character is a term that describes what we are doing with our endowments of personality and the moral light which we possess. It cannot refer to something back of the will but is the choice of the will itself. If moral character is something fixed or something that controls the will in one direction or in another, then virtue or blame disappears, the law of cause and effect takes over, and moral action ceases to exist.”14
Man’s nature and man’s character is a necessary and proper distinction. We must not confuse character with constitution. Nature and character must be distinguished between, lest we confuse our natural attributes with our moral attributes. Our character is determined by our own will. Our constitution or nature is determined by God’s will. Moral character has to do with voluntary states, not involuntary states. Nature has to do with involuntary states, not voluntary states.
There is no moral character in man’s involuntary nature. Man did not consent to or choose what type of nature, design, or natural tendencies he would be created with. Therefore, his moral character does not consist in the nature, design, or natural tendencies that he is created with. God’s moral law says absolutely nothing about man’s nature, design, or natural tendencies. Consequently, man’s nature, design, or natural tendencies, cannot have any moral qualities in and of themselves, since they cannot be in conformity with or contrary to the moral law of God.
The quality of your constitution is not determined by your choice but by your Creator. Therefore, man’s design does not show any virtue in man. Rather, it shows the goodness of our Designer. God has given us our nature and so our nature reflects and reveals the character of God. As Thomas Chalmers said, “There are certain broad and decisive indications of moral design, and so of a moral designer, in the constitution of our world… One patent example of this in the constitution of man, is the force and prevalence of compassion – an endowment which could not have proceeded from a malignant being; but which evinces the Author of our nature to be himself compassion and generous.”15
In this way, our design reflects the goodness of our Designer. Man’s make-up shows the greatness of our Maker. Mankind’s constitution indicates the character of our Creator. And human nature signifies the intelligence of the God of nature.
Men Are Sinners Despite Their Constitution
Some may think that if I am saying that mankind has a natural or constitutional influence towards virtue and against sin, that mankind therefore is not sinful. The truth is that a man is a sinner, who truly deserves punishment, and therefore needs forgiveness through the atonement of Christ, because while God has given mankind the natural ability to obey Him, and He has given us the natural influence to obey Him, we have nevertheless chosen to sin.
This is true not only of Adam, but also of all of us. Men sin against their conscience; and therefore, they sin against their nature. The influences of our nature can be obeyed or disobeyed, yielded to or resisted. Despite all the efforts of God, both internal and external to man, mankind has still chosen to rebel against the good moral government of God, which has been revealed through man’s conscience. Man’s constitutional influence toward virtue exists despite man’s choice to sin. And man’s choice to sin exists despite man’s constitutional influence toward virtue.
Men Are Sinners By Choice, Not Constitution
If men do not inherit a sinful nature, why is sin so universal? Sin is universal because temptation and free will are universal. All men, at some point, have freely given into temptation. Nobody can say, “I’m just a poor sinner. It is not my fault. I was born this way.” Sinners cannot say, “My nature made me do it.” If a man is a sinner, he is not worthy of pity but worthy of punishment. It is his fault. His sin is not the result of the nature God gave him, but of the choice that he has made.
The Bible says, “God hath made men upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecc. 7:29). “God hath made man upright” shows that we cannot blame our sin upon our Creator, on our nature or constitution, or on our birth. And when it says, “…they have sought out many inventions,” this means that we have personally chosen to go after sin.
A sinner, by definition, is a person who chooses to sin. You cannot be a sinner until you first choose to sin. The Bible says that sinful men have “corrupted themselves” (Gen. 6:12; Exo. 32:7, Deut. 9:12, Deut. 32:5, Jdg. 2:19, Hos. 9:9). The sinfulness of each individual is self-inflicted. A sinner is in a self-caused state of wickedness. The will is the source or cause of all our moral qualities and moral behavior. Sin is not the condition of man’s constitution but the quality of man’s choice. Sinfulness is not some involuntary condition which is inflicted upon us. Sin is not something which is helplessly forced upon mankind. Sinners are not wicked by design but by their own determination.
The Bible say’s man’s heart is evil from their youth (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 22:21; 32:30). That means that all men everywhere, at the age of accountability when they know right from wrong or have become moral agents, have personally and freely chosen to be sinners (Gen. 6:12, Ex. 32:7, Deut. 9:12, Deut. 32:5, Jdg. 2:19, Hos. 9:9, Ps. 14:2-3, Isa. 53:6, Ecc. 7:29, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 5:12). Men have chosen to be sinners despite the fact that sin is contrary to our design or nature, and despite our natural ability to do the will of God.
God said, “Everyone one of them is gone back: they are all together become filthy, there is none that doeth good no, not one” (Ps. 53:2; 14:2). It is self-evident that only the morally innocent can become guilty and only the morally clean can “become filthy.” This description of the sinful state of man describes a degenerate state, or a condition which they have “gone back” into, as opposed to a state that they were helplessly born into. Being a sinner is a condition that we have deliberately chosen to “become.”
The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isa. 53:6). The phrases “have gone astray” and “we have turned” signifies personal volition. Sinners are deliberate rebels.
In fact, sin is something that each individual conceives in their own heart (Acts 5:4). It is something that men originate with their own will (Ps. 7:14; 58:3; Matt. 12:35, Lk. 6:45). Men, in a sense, give birth to sin. A sinner “travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood” (Ps. 7:14). Sin is personal because it is originated by each person.
When the Bible says, “All have sinned” (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 5:12), this means that all men have personally and deliberately chosen to violate the revealed law of God. We have used our natural ability of choice to choose contrary to the design of our nature, to do what we knew to be sinful. The Bible says, “But unto the wicked God saith… thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee” (Ps. 50:17). All men have deliberately chosen to rebel against the moral knowledge God has given them and to choose what they have naturally known to be wrong.
To deny that man is sinful by nature is not the same as denying that man is sinful. To deny that man is sinful by nature is simply to deny the idea that man is sinful involuntarily or that he is wicked under necessity. But you can deny that man is sinful by nature and still admit that man is sinful. To say that man is not sinful by nature, but that man is still sinful, is simply to affirm that man is sinful by voluntary choice. In this way, a man is the author of his own moral character.
Gregory of Nyssa said, “For that any one should become wicked, depends solely upon choice.”16 Theodore of Mopsuestia denied the concept “that men sin by nature, not by choice…”17 Ignatius said, “If anyone is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.”18
Gordon C. Olson said, “Sin is always a wrong voluntary attitude or purpose of life, or a wrong motive of heart. Sin is not a fixed something back of the will controlling its actions. The will determines the nature of character . . . We are sinners simply because we choose to sin or live selfishly. We are never held accountable for what we are not the author of. Ability is always the measure of responsibility.”19 He also said, “Moral beings themselves are the author of their own rebellion, which is an unintelligent abuse of their God-given endowments of personality…. It is man who has abused his God-given freedom.”20
Since men are sinners by the liberty of their wills, as opposed to the necessity of their natures, we cannot blame anyone else for our sin. If we are found to be sinners, it is entirely our own fault.
Sinners Separate Themselves From God
In the Bible, those who choose to be sinners are described as being spiritually dead. Spiritual death, or separation from God, is the result of each individual’s personal sin. When a person chooses to sin, they are putting a barrier between themselves and God. The Bible says, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:2). Thus, we can see that men become dead in sin because of their own personal sins.
The Bible says, “Even when we were dead in sins” (Eph. 2:3, 6). “And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh” (Col. 2:13). Notice that these passages say “your iniquities” and “your sins,” making the cause of this condition personal and plural, not impersonal or singular. It means that men are dead in their own sins, not spiritually dead merely for the single sin of Adam.
Since the Bible says that a sinner is spiritually dead because of their own personal sins, we can conclude that men are not born spiritually dead but that men become spiritually dead when they personally and freely choose to sin. As the Bible says, “…death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Spiritual death is not a birth defect but is a self-inflicted condition.
Paul specifically said that we are not spiritually dead for Adam’s sin but for our own. After he said, “…death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,” He said, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” (Rom. 5:14). Paul here made a distinction between our sin and Adam’s transgression and clearly stated that we become spiritually dead, not for Adam’s sin, but for our own.
While Adam physically died a long time after he sinned (Gen. 5:5), Adam became spiritually dead the day that he sinned, just like God said that he would (Gen. 2:17). But does that mean that all his descendents inherit spiritual death from him? No. The parents who are spiritually dead do not transmit spiritual death at conception to their children, anymore than parents who are spiritually alive transmit spiritual life at conception to their children. Logically, if spiritually dead parents propagate spiritually dead children, then spiritually alive parents would propagate spiritually alive children. But spiritual death and spiritual life are not hereditary, since you do not inherit your spirit from your parents.
Spirits are not hereditary or inherited from parents (Traducianism), but spirits are created by God at conception (Creationism). God is known as “the God of the spirits of all flesh” (Num. 16:22; 27:16). This is because God “formeth the spirit of man within him” (Zac. 12:1). The Bible says,“As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all” (Ecc. 11:5). God makes all spirits which is why He said, “all souls are mine” (Eze. 18:4). And this is why Paul said, “your body and… your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:20).
Our parents are the “fathers of our flesh” but God is called “the Father of spirits” (Heb. 12:9). God does not create us with dead spirits, but with living spirits. He creates us spiritually alive in a sense. That is, there is not yet any sin barrier between us and God. We become spiritually dead or relationally separated from Him when we first sin. Paul said, “For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me” (Rom. 7:11). We see that spiritual death occurs after we sin. Only the living can die. Therefore, only those who were once alive can become dead in sin. That is why Paul said “I was alive” before he said “I died.” And that is why the Scriptures said, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again” (Lk. 15:24). To say that he was “alive again” means he is relationally alive to the Father for the second time.
Dr. Emmons said, “Nor can we suppose that Adam made men sinners by conveying to them a morally corrupt nature. Moral corruption is essentially different from natural corruption. The latter belongs to the body, but the former belongs to the mind. Adam undoubtedly conveyed to his posterity a corrupt body, or a body subject to wounds, bruises and putrefying sores. But such a body could not corrupt the mind, or render it morally depraved. There is no morally corrupt nature distinct from free, voluntary, sinful exercises. Adam had no such nature, and consequently could convey no such nature to his posterity.
But even supposing he had a morally corrupt nature, distinct from his free, voluntary, sinful exercises, it must have belonged to his soul, and not to his body. And if it belonged to his soul, he could not convey it to his posterity, who derive their souls immediately from the fountain of being. God is the father of our spirits. The soul is not transmitted from father to son by natural generation. The soul is spiritual; and what is spiritual is indivisible, is incapable of propagation. Adam could not convey any part of his soul to his next immediate offspring, without conveying the whole. It is, therefore, as contrary to reason as to Scripture, to suppose that Adam’s posterity derived their souls from him. And if they did not derive their souls from him, they could not derive from him a morally corrupt nature, if he really possessed such a nature himself.”21
Paris Reidhead said, “Are people in trouble spiritually because they inherit some spiritual defect from their parents or grandparents? No. They are in trouble because when they reach the age of accountability they deliberately turn their own way – they commit their will to the principle and practice of pleasing themselves as the end of their being. That is sin.”22
He also said, “Now remember, sin is a crime. It is the committal of the will to the principle and practice of governing one’s life to please one’s self. In other words, when the Scripture says, ‘all have sinned,’ it is saying that upon reaching the age of accountability, every individual has chosen to govern and control his life to please himself… We know that upon reaching the age of accountability, each of us chose as the principle by which we would live: ‘I am going to govern and control my own life.”23
Clement ofAlexandriasaid about sinners and their relationship with God, “their estrangement is the result of free choice.”24
Personal Salvation for Personal Sins
At the age of accountability, when our conscience was developed or our moral constitution reached the point where we could be held accountable, we all chose to sin and separate ourselves from God. The very basis of our guilt is the fact that we have the natural ability to obey God (free will), and a natural knowledge or influence to obey God (conscience), and we have chosen to sin anyways. Without free will and conscience being elements of man’s nature, man could not be accountable for his actions at all. The faculties of free will and conscience are essential to moral agency; and consequently, they are necessary for any being to be subject to moral government.
The fact that mankind has a nature that includes free will and conscience does not mean that mankind is not sinful, but is actually the precondition for man to even be sinful at all. That is because a being is sinful if they freely choose to do what they know is wrong (Jn. 9:41; Jas. 4:17). Men are sinners because they sin when they don’t have to, knowing that it is wrong but doing it anyways.
The very reason that men need God’s grace and mercy through the atonement of Jesus Christ is because sin is their own fault, since they have been sinners by choice. A sinner deserves punishment for his sin because his sin is the product or fruit of his own will, a choice which he has freely made, which he was free not to make. Since a sinner deserves punishment for freely choosing to sin, when he was free not to sin, this is the very reason that He needs God’s grace and mercy through Jesus Christ.
If a man was born a sinner, or was a sinner by necessity of his nature, then his sinful condition would not be his own fault; and consequently, he could not deserve punishment for it. Therefore, he wouldn’t need God’s grace and mercy through the atonement of Jesus Christ. If a man is a sinner by no fault or choice of his own, then he deserves no condemnation; and consequently, he needs no Savior.
We don’t need the atonement of Jesus Christ because of our birth. We need the atonement of Jesus Christ because of our choices. It is true that infants are subjected to physical death because of Adam’s sin; and therefore, they need the resurrection that comes through Jesus (1 Cor. 15:21-22). But infants are morally innocent because they have not yet sinned (Rom. 9:11). Therefore, they are in no danger of damnation. Jesus did not die to save babies from hell, because babies are not in any danger of hell. Jesus said that only the sick need a doctor (Lk. 5:31). It is only sinners that need a Savior. Once a man chooses to be a sinner, they are in danger of damnation and are in need of salvation.
We don’t need the atonement of Jesus Christ because of our ancestors. We need the atonement of Jesus Christ for our own sin. We need His atonement for our own personal rebellion. The Bible says, “JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat. 1:21). And it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6).
Our need for salvation or our necessity for the atonement is because of our own free choices, not because of our involuntary birth. We do not need the atonement for merely existing. We need the atonement because of what we have done with our existence. We need a Savior, not for merely being born, but for being rebellious. It is not sinful to merely exist, or to be born, but it is sinful to make choices which are contrary to the law of God. Therefore, men are not in danger of hell for merely existing or for merely being born. And they do not need forgiveness in Christ for merely existing or for being born. But men are in danger of hell for making sinful choices; and therefore, they need the forgiveness that is in Christ for their own sins.
Lawful vs. Unlawful Gratification
While it is true that our natural influence is for virtue as far as our conscience is concerned, but our natural influence is for self-gratification, as far as our flesh is concerned. Our flesh doesn’t care if we gratify it naturally or unnaturally, lawfully or unlawfully, it just wants to be gratified. The reason many think that we have a “natural tendency towards sin,” is because they are thinking of our flesh. But our flesh doesn’t want “sin” as if “sin” was the end in mind or object sought. The flesh wants gratification, whether it comes through sin or through lawful means.
We have a constitutional, natural, God given desire for gratification. The flesh and mind that God has given us has natural desires that can be gratified through natural and lawful means. God designed our body and mind to be gratified through natural and lawful means. Sin is the choice of the will to gratify these natural desires through unnatural and unlawful means.
F. Lagard Smith said, “We have a nature that is capable of being perverted from legitimate to illegitimate, from the natural to the unnatural, from the pure to the polluted.”25 He also said that sin is to “pervert… natural, legitimate, human desires.”26 Augustine even said, “Evil is making a bad use of a good thing.”27 Tertullian said that the person who chooses to sin chooses to “make a bad use of his created constitution.”28Paris Reidhead said, “sin is the decision to gratify a good appetite in a bad way.”29
A perfect example of this is the narrative of Eve’s temptation and sin. We are told that she was tempted, not because she had a sinful nature, but because she had natural God given desires which the devil tempted her to gratify through forbidden means. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).
The narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert also shows the devil appealing to the natural desires that Jesus’ human body had (Luke 4:3). Eve and Jesus had natural desires, which were good in themselves, but the devil used them as the occasion for their temptation. These desires were not in and of themselves sinful, since they were given to them by God.
The Bible says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and is enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15). The “lust” is only a source through which we are tempted, but when it is conceived, it then becomes sin. Evidently, there is a type of lust which is not sin, but is rather the source through which we are tempted. The desires of the body serve as a temptation upon our will when the suggestion is brought to our mind to gratify these desires in an unlawful way. Until our will yields to these suggestions and we seek to gratify our desires in an unlawful way, we have not yet committed sin.
The desires of the flesh do not necessitate our will, because a person has the power and ability to “deny himself” (Mk. 8:34). And the desires of the body are not in and of themselves sinful. Temptation is not sin, neither is sin physical. Moral qualities belong to states of the will, not to states of our body. God has given us our flesh for us to possess it, but not so that our flesh would possess us. We must not be controlled by our flesh, but we must be in control of our flesh. Our flesh was meant to be our servant, not our master (1 Cor. 9:27).
Our flesh has its proper God-given place, but we must choose to control it and use it the way God intended. The devil will tempt men to gratify the natural desires of our flesh in an unnatural and unlawful way. This is why we must choose to keep our body under subjection (1 Cor. 9:27), and choose to deny ourselves (Lk. 9:23). As Paul said, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). Our flesh wants us to be self-indulgent and practice self-gratification, but the Spirit tells us to practice self-control and self-denial, choosing to put our flesh in its proper place and make a legitimate use of it. Our flesh has its proper function and its desires have a natural and lawful way of being gratified. But sin is to misuse our flesh and gratify its desires unnaturally and unlawfully outside of its intended purpose and legitimate boundaries.
Michael Pearl said, “The root of all sin is founded in runaway indulgence of God-given desires… Drives which are not in themselves evil, nonetheless, form the seedbed on which sin will assuredly grow… As the body of flesh was the medium of Eve’s sin and of Christ’s temptation, so it is the implement of your child’s development into selfishness – which, at maturity, will constitute sinfulness.”30
Rev. E. W. Cook explained the difference between the occasion of sin and the cause of sin. He said, “the occasion of gluttony is the natural appetite for food; but because that between this occasion and the gluttony there come in the free moral, and responsible being, under obligation to keep all his inclinations in due subordination to the higher dictates of reason and judgment therefore does he himself become the efficient cause of the sinful gluttony. For the occasion he is in no way responsible, while he shoulders the entire burden of responsibility for the sinful gluttony.”31
Charles Finney said, “All the constitutional appetites and propensities of body and mind, are in themselves innocent; but when strongly excited are a powerful temptation to prohibited indulgence. To these constitutional appetites or propensities, so many appeals of temptation are made, as universally to lead human beings to sin. Adam was created in the perfection of manhood, certainly not with a sinful nature, and yet, an appeal to his innocent constitutional appetites led him into sin.”32
He also said, “The bodily appetites and tendencies of body and mind, when strongly excited, become the occasions of sin. So it was with Adam. No one will say that Adam had a sinful nature. But he had, by his constitution, an appetite for food and a desire for knowledge. These were not sinful but were as God made them. They were necessary to fit him to live in this world as a subject of God’s moral government. But being strongly excited led to indulgence, and thus became the occasions of his sinning against God. These tendencies were innocent in themselves, but he yielded to them in a sinful manner, and that was his sin.”33
Sin is an illegitimate use of our body and mind. Sin is an illegitimate gratification of a legitimate desire. An example would be our sexual desires. The attraction between the sexes is a “natural attraction.” It is normal and natural and is not in and of itself wrong. God creates us and God has given us our sex drive. These desires are God given. He programmed them in us and designed us to have them. And everything God creates is good (Gen. 1:31).
Paris Reidhead said, “When God made us He gave us many different appetites… But God looked at the being He made and to whom He had given all these appetites and urges and said, ‘It is good!’”34
God intended for man to populate the world. God told Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiple” (Gen. 1:22, 28). Sex, with all of its physical passions, was God’s idea. God designed our human bodies for the physical union between a male and a female. Sexual desire is natural and normal and is part of God’s intelligent design, as the devil certainly did not design our bodies!
Augustinianism, in accordance with Gnosticism, believes that our flesh is sinful. More specifically, Augustinianism says that the physical passion or the “concupiscence” of the flesh is a curse of the fall of Adam, that all physical passion in sex is sinful, that all are born sinful on account of being born out of that physical passion, and that all are born sinful because they involuntarily inherit physical passion.
Augustine said, “Sensual lust belongs to the nature of brutes; but is a punishment in man.”35 He said sexual desire was “a disease—a wound inflicted on nature through the treacherous counsel given by the devil—a vice of nature—a deformity—an evil that comes from the depravity of our nature which is vitiated by sin.”36 He taught that no man was born sinless, because, “No man is now born without concupiscence.”37 And he taught that Christ alone was born sinless because Christ alone was born without sex, being born of a virgin.
Augustine was righty accused by Julian of Eclanum of teaching, “sexual impulse and the intercourse of married people were devised by the devil, and that therefore those who are born innocent are guilty, and that it is the work of the devil, not of God, that they are born of this diabolical intercourse. And this, without any ambiguity, is Manichaeism.”38
Dennis Carroll said, “Manichaeans also taught that sexual intercourse was satanic. Augustine taught that through sexual intercourse we pass on evil or sinfulness to our children. So I see these significant parallels between these two systems.”39
Julian of Eclanum refuted this error of Gnosticism in Augustine’s theology by saying, “the sexual impulse—that is, that the virility itself, without which there can be no intercourse—is ordained by God.”40
While Adam and Eve realized that they were naked after they sinned (Gen. 3:7), that does not mean as Augustine thought, that they did not have any physical attraction one for another before they sinned. It simply means that in their former state ignorance, their nakedness did not have any moral connotations like it did now (Gen. 2:25). With their eyes opened, they had moral principles developed in their minds which were not previously there, thus they felt it necessary to cover their bodies, not because they did not previously have physical attractions or passions, but because they did not previously view these attractions and passions in any moral light.
Adam and Eve were physically designed for each other at their creation and were intended to multiply themselves through physical intercourse before they sinned (Gen. 1:22, 28). God actually designed men and women for each other. Physical attraction is by God’s design and is therefore not sinful in and of itself. If a man and a woman commit themselves to each other through marriage, and engage in a normal sexual relationship with each other within that marriage, they are naturally and lawfully satisfying or fulfilling their God given desires. As the Bible says, “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4).
Natural attraction is a normal state of the flesh and is not sinful, but lust in the sinful sense is a state of the will. It is a sin to intentionally look at a women, whom you are not married to, lustfully (Matt. 5:28). But there is no sin in marital sex or in the fleshly passions which are involved, so long as these desires are fulfilled lawfully and naturally. Sin is not the choice to gratify some type of sinful nature, but sin, like sexual immorality, is choosing to fulfill natural desires in an unnatural and unlawful way.
I once called into a Calvinist radio show that was promoting the hereditary sinfulness of babies. The topic of the show was original sin, total depravity, and sinful nature. I asked the host, “Is human nature sinful?” He said, “Yes.” I asked, “If homosexuality a sin?” He said, “Yes.” I asked, “Is homosexuality human nature?” He said, “No!” I then asked, “How can there be a sin which is contrary to our sinful nature?” He was silent. He didn’t know how to answer that question. If human nature is sinful, and homosexuality is a sin, how can homosexuality be against human nature? A sin which is against a sinful nature? This doesn’t make any sense.
The truth is that when a person engages in any form of sexual immorality, such as fornication, homosexuality, or sodomy, they are choosing contrary to God’s intention and contrary to the design of our constitution. These sins are against our nature because they are contrary to our design. They are a perversion of our design. Through these sins men are trying to satisfy or fulfill their God given sexual desires in an unnatural, unlawful, and selfish manner.
The Bible says that fornication is a sin against our body (1 Cor. 6:18), that homosexuality is against nature or against the natural use of the body (Rom. 1:26-27) and that sodomy is an abuse of our flesh (1 Cor. 6:9). Men are not fornicators or homosexuals by birth or by design. Men are sinners by choice. Our will is free to choose to gratify our flesh lawfully or unlawfully, naturally or unnaturally. The natural desires of our flesh become the occasions of sin.
While many sins are motivated by the desire to gratify the physical aspects of our constitution, other sins are motivated by a desire to gratify the mental aspects of our constitution. Sinners are “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind…” (Eph. 2:3). While the “lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes” have to do with the physical aspects of our constitution, the “pride of life” relates to the mental aspects of our constitution (1 Jn. 2:16). Sinners try to gratify themselves by pursuing physical and mental satisfaction. Eve was tempted to gratify her desire for food, which was a physical desire, and to gratify her desire for knowledge, which was a mental desire (Gen. 3:6).
While God wants us to be happy and satisfied, He has given natural and lawful means for this. The problem is when a person selfishly establishes their own happiness as the supreme pursuit of their life, when they ought to be benevolent and live supremely for the happiness of God and equally for the happiness of their neighbor (Lk. 10:27).
The fact that our nature, or our body and mind, is susceptible to temptation, does not mean that we have a “sinful nature,” a “sinful flesh,” or a “sinful body.” We must distinguish between sin and temptation. The desires of the body and mind are the occasions of temptation (Jas. 1:14-15), but sin itself is a choice of the will (Jn. 5:14; 8:11; Rom. 6:12; 6:19; Eph. 4:26; 1 Jn. 3:4).
Charles Finney said, “…the appetites and passions tend so strongly to self-indulgence. These are temptations to sin, but sin itself consists not in these appetites and propensities, but in the voluntary committal of the will to their indulgence. This committal of the will is selfishness.”41
An example of how sin is contrary to the design of our constitution, or how sin is an abuse and misuse of our body and mind, is the sin of drunkenness. Drunkenness is an unnatural state of body and mind. Sobriety is a natural state. Drunkenness is an “induced” state. Liquor and beer require an “acquired taste.” Our body naturally rejects alcohol when the body becomes inebriated or intoxicated. Our body rebels by reacting with vomiting and headaches. This shows that the sin of drunkenness is contrary to our nature or that it is contrary to our design. Drunkenness is contrary to the proper function of our flesh. We have to corrupt our body to enjoy cigarettes or to crave alcohol. Our bodies do not naturally have those enjoyments or cravings. It is through choice that we corrupt our flesh, degenerate our nature, or pervert our body to enjoy and crave these things.
These unnatural desires of the flesh do not, in and of themselves, constitute sin. Drug babies for example cannot be considered “sinful” just because they inherit a flesh that has these unnatural cravings. A person is not a sinner because of the involuntary cravings and physical desires that they inherit, but because of the moral choices that they make. Sin or sinfulness does not consist in the states of the body or in the states of the sensibilities. All moral character consists in the states of the will. A drug addict could decide to no longer abuse mind altering substances and their flesh goes through withdrawals. If a person’s body craves drugs, but they choose not to gratify these cravings, than they are experiencing temptation but are not sinning.
Charles Finney said, “If these feelings are not suffered to influence the will… if such feelings are not cherished, and are not suffered to shake the integrity of the will; they are not sin. That is, the will does not give in to them, but the contrary. They are only temptations. If they are allowed to control the will, to break forth in words and actions, then there is sin; but the sin does not consist in the feelings, but in the consent of the will, to gratify them.” 42
Paris Reidhead said, “Now temptation is not sin. Temptation is the proposition presented to the mind that you can satisfy a good appetite in a forbidden way. Temptation leads to sin…. Sin is the decision of the will…. sin is the decision to gratify a good appetite in a bad way.”43
Even Augustine at one time said, “Nobody can help what comes into his mind; but to consent or to dissent from involuntary suggestions, is the prerogative of our own will.”44 And he said, “Whatever may determine the will, if it cannot be resisted, is complied with without sin; but if one can resist it, let him not comply with it and it will not be sin.”45
Winkie Pratney said, “Don’t mistake temptation for sin. Temptation is a suggestion to gratify a desire in an illegal way or amount. Temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted.”46
Our Flesh Is Not Sinful
We cannot say that our flesh is “sinful” or that we have a “sinful nature” just because our flesh or nature is susceptible to temptation. It is not sinful to be tempted. Jesus was “tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Therefore, temptation is not sin.
Sinfulness is violation of God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4). God’s law tells us what type of choices we should and shouldn’t make (Exo. 20:3-17), not what type of body or nature we should or shouldn’t have. Therefore, choices can be sinful, but a body or a nature cannot be.
Our flesh is just dirt (Gen. 2:7, Gen. 3:19). Clearly then, our flesh cannot be sinful. You cannot have sinful dirt. Dirt does not have any moral qualities in and of itself. Dirt is physical. Dirt does not violate any commandment at all. There is no commandment that says, “Thou shalt not be made out of dirt.” Such a command would not even be a proper command, because a command is supposed to be a requirement as to what type of choice you should and shouldn’t make. What you are made out of is not a choice that you are free to make. Therefore, you cannot be properly commanded to be made out of a certain substance, and consequently, your substance cannot be sinful because it is not a violation of any moral obligation.
Our moral character cannot consist in our composition or in our body because we do not choose what type of body we have (Matt. 5:36; 6:27). Even if there was such a commandment that forbad being composed of a certain type of substance, our violation of that command would not be our fault but God’s fault, since it was God who made us out of dirt (Gen. 4:1; Ex. 4:11; Deut. 32:18; Isa. 27:11; 43:1; 43:7; 44:2; 44:24; 49:5; 64:8; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 26:10; 95:6; 127:3; 139:13-14, 16; Ecc. 7:29; 31:15; 35:10; Mal. 2:10; Lk. 11:40; Jn. 1:3; Rom. 9:20; Eph. 3:9; 4:6; Col. 1:16).
If our flesh is sinful, this sinfulness is not our fault but God’s fault because God is the one who creates us with flesh. The Bible says, “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about… thou hast made me as the clay… Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews” (Job 10:8-11).
God is the creator of our composition and constitution. God is Holy and doesn’t want us to be sinful. He certainly would not create us out of some type of sinful substance. Otherwise Job would be blaming God for his sinful condition by saying to Him, “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together sinfully. Thou hast made me of sin. Thou hast clothed me with sinful substance and fenced me with an evil constitution.” Job would be saying that men are sinful, not for choosing to break God’s law, but for being created by God Himself!
To even apply the word “sinful” to an involuntary substance of our composition, or to our overall constitution itself, is to assign a moral quality to an involuntary state, which is an intrinsic contradiction. Moral qualities can only be predicated upon voluntary states of being, or else such qualities cannot truly be considered moral. Moral qualities are not inherent in matter itself, so it is impossible to be created out of a sinful substance.
Some modern translations of the Bible, like the New International Version, will translate the word “flesh” and other such words into the phrase “sinful nature,” thus applying moral qualities to our composition and constitution, which are involuntary on our part because they are not caused by our own will. But to translate the word “flesh” into “sinful nature” is a completely arbitrary translation, since the actual Greek word for sin and the Greek word for nature is not used in the original text at all in these passages. And out of all the possible meanings of the Greek word “sarx” which is used, the phrase “sinful nature” is not one of them.
The Greek word for” sinful” is” hamartōlos” and the Greek word for “nature” is “phusis.” These two Greek words are not found anyone in the entire Bible next to each other or side by side in order to make the term “sinful nature.” The single word “sarx” which means “flesh” is what is mistakenly and inconsistently translated as “sinful nature,” but this is really a false interpretation and not an accurate translation. The term “sinful nature” is not a term found anyone in the Greek New Testament at all. The versions which translate words into “sinful nature” are practicing eisegesis not exegesis, which means that they are trying to fit their theology into the Bible, rather than deriving their theology from the Bible.
The fact that their translation is arbitrary is shown by the fact that they translate “sarx” or “flesh” into “sinful nature” all throughout their version, but when the very same word in the Greek is used to describe Jesus Christ, they do not translate it as “sinful nature.” This is their happy inconsistency. If they were consistent in their interpretation, the Bible would state, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the sinful nature is not of God…” (1 Jn. 4:3). And also, “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the sinful nature” (2 Jn. 1:7). “God was manifest in the sinful nature” (1 Tim. 3:16). These verses are perfect reasons why the word flesh does not mean sinful nature and should never be translated as such.
Flesh is not sinful in and of itself, but it can be used sinfully. It is sinful to selfishly live after the flesh (Rom. 8:13), or to be living to gratify our flesh (Rom. 8:7). But it is not sinful to simply have a flesh. The moral law of God does not forbid that we have flesh, but it does forbid selfishness. That is why it is sinful to live after the flesh, but not sinful to simply have flesh.
We know with absolute certainty that it is not sinful to have a flesh because Jesus Christ was sinless (2 Cor. 5:21) and yet He had a flesh (Lk. 24:39, Jn. 1:14, Rom. 1:3; 9:5; Heb. 2:14; 5:7; 1 Tim. 3:16, 1 Pet. 3:18; 4:1 1 Jn. 4:3, 2 Jn. 1:7). Jesus said, “…for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Lk. 24:39). “And the Word was made flesh” (Jn. 1:14). “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14). “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). “Forasmuch than as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh” (1 Pet. 4:1). “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of god: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:3). “For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist” (2 Jn. 1:7). Since Jesus Christ was sinless, and yet He had the same type of human flesh that we have, we can logically conclude from this that our human flesh is not intrinsically evil or inherently sinful.
Some have supposed that the virgin birth was necessary in order for Jesus to avoid the inheritance of a “sinful nature.” However, the Scriptures nowhere state that Jesus was born of a virgin to avoid the inheritance of some type of sinful substance. Rather, the Bible says that He was born of a virgin because His Father was God. “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1:35).
Though Jesus was born of a virgin and His Father was God, Jesus did not have a different type of flesh from the rest of us. He had the same type of flesh that we have. Jesus was not made physically perfect until the third day when He was raised with a glorified body (Lk. 13:32; Heb. 5:9). If Jesus was born with a glorified flesh, or if He did not take upon Himself a physically depraved flesh like we have, which was subjected to death, He could not have tasted death for every man; and therefore, could not have made atonement at all. It was necessary for Christ to be made with the same type of physically depraved body that we have, so that He could be capable of physical death.
The Bible says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowed with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man… For as much than as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same: that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil…. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren…” (Heb. 2:9, 14, 16-17).
Consider the syllogisms which can be drawn from this text:
- Jesus was made in all things like us.
- Jesus was not made sinful.
- Therefore, we are not made sinful.
- Jesus was made a partaker of flesh and blood.
- Jesus was entirely sinless.
- Therefore, flesh and blood are not sinful.
- Jesus had the same type of flesh that we have.
- Jesus was not sinful in anyway.
- Therefore, our flesh is not sinful.
If Jesus was made “in all things” like we are made, we can conclude that he “took part of” the same type of physical substance that we took part of. In this way Jesus was made “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), which doesn’t mean that physical flesh is sinful, but means that Jesus was “made in the likeness of men” (Php. 2:7). The word “flesh” is sometimes used synonymous with men (Gen. 6:12; Matt. 16:17; Gal. 1:16).
Jesus was made in the likeness of men, in that he had the same human nature and flesh that we all have, but unlike all other men, he never chose to sin. The Bible tells us that Jesus was morally perfect (2 Cor. 5:21), even before He had a glorified, resurrected, or perfect body. He was morally perfect even while he had a physically imperfect body which was subjected to death (Lk. 13:32; Heb. 2:14). That is because sin is not a substance or state of the body, but is a choice of the will.
The command to “put away evil” (Deut. 13:5; 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21; 22:22, 24; 24:7; Jdg. 20:13; Ecc. 11:10; Isa. 1:16), implies that evil is a choice of our will and not a substance of our nature. The command to “cease to do evil” (Isa. 1:16), and to “sin no more” (Jn. 8:11), implies that all sin is volitional. It implies that sin is not some involuntary substance dwelling inside of you which you cannot get rid of. Therefore, you don’t need a new body or a new substance to be free from sin.
You can have a pure and perfect heart or be morally perfect in this life, even while you have a fallen and corrupted body or are physically imperfect. This is evident since the Bible described certain men as being perfect in heart in this life, even while existing in their corrupted, depraved, or fallen flesh (1 Kin. 6:61; 11:4; 15:3; 15:14; 20:3; 1 Chron. 12:38; 28:9; 29:9; 29:19; 15:17; 16:9; 19:9; 25:2; Job 1:1, 8; Ps. 102:1; Isa. 38:3). “And the Lord said unto Satan, hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? (Job 1:8). “And said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight” (Isa. 38:3).
Clearly, you can be morally perfect, or completely obedient to God, even while you’re physically depraved. You heart can be right with God, in obeying all the moral knowledge that you have, even while your body does not sustain perfect health. Though your flesh is corrupt, your moral character does not have to be. Your will can obey all the moral knowledge of your mind, thus creating a perfect moral character, even while your body or flesh is fallen and depraved, or even while you are physically imperfect.
The distinction between the moral and the physical must be kept in our minds. We must differentiate between moral depravity (Rom. 3:23), and physical depravity (1 Cor. 15:22-23). And we must distinguish between moral perfection (1 Kin. 8:61; Php. 3:15), and physical perfection (1 Cor. 15:42; Php. 3:11-12).
For example, Paul said, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52). Paul was not saying that our moral character would be changed, but that our body would be changed. He said, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that it is written, death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:53-54). Paul was not talking about being made morally perfect, but physically perfect. He was not saying that we become morally incorruptible, as if we lose our free will in Heaven, but that we become physically incorruptible, since we lose our fallen body in the resurrection. The bodies that we have which are subjected to death will be taken away, so that death is swallowed up and gone.
Another example of the distinction between physical and moral perfection is when Paul said, “…not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect” (Php. 3:12). When Paul said he had not yet attained perfection, he was talking about being free from physical corruption and attaining physical perfection. This is obvious since He said in the verse right before, “If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead” (Php. 3:11). The context of verse eleven gives clarity to the meaning of verse twelve. Paul was saying that he had not yet attained physical perfection because he had not yet attained a glorified body.
Paul was not saying that he was sinful and had not yet been made free from sin, since Paul already said that Christians have been made “free from sin” (Rom. 6:18, 22), and that he had a “conscience void of offense” (Acts 24:16; see also Acts 23:1; 2 Tim. 1:3). Paul was certainly not saying that moral perfection is unattainable in this life, as many misunderstand him to be saying, since only two verses down he said, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded” (Php. 3:15).
Clearly, Paul was writing about two different types of perfection. One type of perfection Paul said he had attained and one type of perfection which he said he had not yet attained. Paul was making a clear distinction between physical perfection and moral perfection and stated that the former is only attainable in the next life while the latter is attainable in this life. Moral perfection is attainable in this life while we are still in our flesh, since our flesh is not sinful in and of itself, and our flesh does not necessitate our choices, but we are free to live after it or to choose not to (Matt. 16:24; Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 9:27).
Jesus Christ made a distinction between moral perfection and physical perfection when He said, “and the third day I shall be perfected” (Lk. 13:32). Jesus Christ was morally perfect or sinless His entire life because he “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), but He was not born or created physically perfect. He had the same depraved flesh that we have. Jesus lived a sinless life without a glorified flesh, while he inhabited a corrupted flesh! He was born with a physically depraved body that was subjected to suffering and death and it was not until He was resurrected on the third day that He received a glorified body; and therefore, became physically perfect.
The physical and the moral must always be properly distinguished or differentiated between, because what is physical relates to the flesh, but what is moral relates to the will. The former relates to the quality of our substance, while the latter relates to the quality of our heart or motive. Moral states cannot be inherited but what is physical is hereditary. As Jesus taught, “that which is born of flesh is flesh” (Jn. 3:6). Diseases and death is physical and has to do with our flesh, but sin is moral and has to do with our will. That is why diseases and death can be transmitted and propagated through semen or sperm, but sin cannot be transmitted or propagated through natural reproduction.
Julian of Eclanum said, “…death passed to us by Adam, not sins.”47 And he said, “…all sin descends not from nature, but from the will.”48 Alfred T. Overstreet said, “…sin is not a substance. It has absolutely no material or physical properties. Sin is an act, and so it is impossible for it to be passed on physically… A child has no moral character at birth…”49
Moral character cannot be inherited or transmitted for the same reason that moral character cannot be borrowed or lent out. You cannot inherit the moral character of another person anymore than you can lend your moral character to somebody else. Moral character is not transferable. Moral character is not a “thing” that has any material existence. Moral character is immaterial. It is moral, not physical. A person is either sinful or holy based upon their personal choice and individual intention of their heart, not based upon the quality of their composition or the state of their constitution. Therefore, moral character cannot be bought and sold or be transmitted, transferred, or inherited from one person to another.
While we do inherit physical depravity, or a body of flesh that is subjected to death (Gen. 3:22; 1 Cor. 15:22), we do not inherit moral depravity (Eze. 18:19-22). Moral depravity is our own fault. Moral depravity is a state of sinfulness, and sin is a personal choice of the will. Moral character is not hereditary through our nature but is originated through our will. Righteous parents do not give birth to righteous children and sinful parents do not give birth to sinful children. A righteous moral character, or a sinful moral character, requires personal choice. A man is the author of his own character. Moral character cannot be “transmitted through natural generation” or inherited by posterity.
Therefore, infants are not born righteous or sinful but are born morally innocent. The Bible repeatedly describes infants being “innocent” (2 Kng. 21:16; 24:4; Jer. 13:26-27; Ps. 106:37-38; Matt. 18:3). For example, whenIsraelwould sacrifice their babies to false gods, God said that they were shedding “innocent blood.” Evidently, God views infants as morally innocent. If words have any real meaning or definition, or if the inspired writer meant what he wrote, God was literally calling infants “blameless,” “clean,” and “guiltless,” when He said that they were “innocent.”50 That is what the Hebrew word literally means.
Infants are innocent because they are not yet sinful or guilty. You cannot be sinful before you commit sin or be guilty before you commit a crime. Infants don’t yet have any moral character at all because they haven’t yet “done anything” morally “good or evil” (Rom. 9:11). Moral knowledge plus moral choices equals moral character. Those who are not yet moral agents cannot possibly have moral character. To apply the words “sinful” or “sinner” to those who don’t even know right from wrong, and who haven’t yet made any moral choices, is to empty these words of any meaning at all. No one can be “sinful” or a “sinner” if they don’t even know what sin is or if they haven’t yet committed any sins.
Consider these truths in logical syllogisms:
- Moral character is determined by moral choices.
- Infants have not yet made any moral choices.
- Therefore, infants cannot have a righteous or sinful moral character.
- Without possessing moral knowledge, a person cannot possess any moral character, either good or evil.
- Infants are without moral knowledge.
- Therefore, infants cannot have moral character, either good or evil.
- Without moral knowledge and without moral choices, a person cannot yet be guilty of doing anything wrong but are necessarily innocent.
- Infants are without moral knowledge and without moral choices.
- Therefore, infants are not guilty of anything wrong but are necessarily morally innocent.
These Biblical truths are at an antithesis to the teaching of John Calvin who said, “we all sinned before we were born…”51 He also said, “Even before we see the light of day, we are in God’s sight impure and sinful…”52 And he said, “infants themselves, as they bring their condemnation into the world with them, are rendered obnoxious to punishment by their own sinfulness…”53
Calvin held to the notion that infants sinned in Adam, and by participating in his sin by existing as his semen in his loins, they were personally sinful, guilty, and hell deserving. This particular moral philosophy would make us guilty of all the sins of all our ancestors, since we descend from all of them or existed seminally in them all. It would also mean that we participated in the righteousness of Noah and are under God’s favor on account of that, since we all descend from him and were in his loins when he obeyed God. And this moral philosophy would make even Christ sinful and guilty, since He too was a descendent of Adam as we shall soon see.
But the whole notion of being guilty and liable to punishment for a sin that occurred without your knowledge and without your consent is nonsense and injustice. It is impossible to sin before you are born because sin requires moral knowledge and personal choice. It is impossible, under the justice of God’s moral government, to be born condemned, because condemnation requires personal sin, and personal sin requires moral knowledge and personal choice.
When the Bible says “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23; Rom. 5:12), this is not without qualification. This description is obviously limited to those who are capable of sinning. It is self-evident that those who are not capable of sinning cannot be included in “all have sinned.” Those who don’t yet exist, those who don’t know right from wrong yet, and those who haven’t yet made any moral choices, are without the qualifying boundaries of the description of the “all” that have “sinned.”
The “all” that have “sinned” are those who have reached the age of accountability. The Bible explicitly says that infants in the womb haven’t yet sinned (Rom. 9:11). But the Bible say’s man’s heart is evil from their youth (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 22:21; 32:30). It doesn’t say that men are evil before they are born or before the age of accountability. The Hebrew word “youth” means “childhood,” “juvenility,”54 and “early life.”55 So when it says men are evil from their youth, it does not mean evil from their birth but evil from a young age, particularly the age of accountability, which is a state when moral principle is developed in the mind.
Under the moral government of God, moral accountability is according to the moral knowledge that a moral being possesses. Jesus taught this just principle of God’s divine administration when He said, “Very I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for thelandofSodomandGomorrahin the Day of Judgment, than for that city” (Matt. 10:15).SodomandGomorrahnever heard the gospel, so they will receive less punishment than those cities which have heard the gospel and have rejected it. SinceSodomandGomorrahnever heard the gospel, they are not going to be accountable to the truth of the gospel. However, those who have heard the gospel are obligated to obey it. Each person’s obligation and accountability is proportionate to each person’s knowledge. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Lk. 12:48). Much is required from those who have much, and little is required from those who have little. Just as obligation and accountability is proportionate to ability, obligation and accountability is proportionate to knowledge.
Consider these logical and Scriptural syllogisms:
- The reason that men are “without excuse” for their actions is because they have knowledge (Rom. 1:20).
- Infants are ignorant or without moral knowledge (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16).
- Therefore, infants have an excuse for their actions.
- The wrath of God is against men because they “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom. 1:18).
- Infants are ignorant or without moral knowledge (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16).
- Therefore, the wrath of God is not against infants.
- Those who are under “condemnation” are those to whom the “light is come” and have “loved darkness rather than light” (Jn. 3:19).
- Infants cannot choose falsehood over truth because they are ignorant and without moral knowledge (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16).
- Therefore, infants are not under condemnation.
John Wesley said, “Nothing is sin, strictly speaking, but a voluntary transgression of a known law of God.”56 A. W. Tozer said, “Sin is the voluntary commission of an act known to be contrary to the will of God. Where there is no moral knowledge or where there is no voluntary choice, the act is not sinful; it cannot be, for sin is the transgression of the law and transgression must be voluntary.”57
Without moral knowledge and moral choices there can be no moral character. It is inconceivable that moral character should exist before there is moral knowledge or moral choice. That is why children remain morally innocent until the age of accountability when they know right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16), and they choose to do wrong (Jas. 4:17). The age of accountability is also known as the age of reason. It is when their mind is developed, or specifically when their conscience is developed, so that they know right from wrong. When each person reaches this age, or state, differs from person to person. But those who don’t know right from wrong cannot be sinful (Jn. 9:41). Infants do not yet know right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16). And therefore, infants cannot be sinful according to the Bible.
The idea that infants are born sinful because they are born of flesh is nonsense. Men cannot choose what they are made of; and therefore, they cannot be sinful because of what they are made of. Even Augustine at one point recognized, “There can be no sin that is not voluntary, the learned and the ignorant admit this evident truth.”58 The nature you are born with is all together involuntary; and therefore, the nature that you are born with is completely without any moral character or moral qualities whatsoever. You cannot be sinful or be a sinner merely because of the nature that you involuntary inherit at your creation. You cannot hold a man responsible for a nature which he hasn’t chosen to have, nor can his involuntary nature be part of his moral character at all. Moral character must always be self-caused or self-chosen if it is going to truly have any moral quality, and that which a man is responsible for he himself must be the cause of.
While sin or moral character is voluntary and caused by our own will, it is also true that infants, though innocent, do suffer physical death as a natural consequence of Adam’s sin (1 Cor. 15:21-22). This is because we do not have access to the tree of life. In order to put a limitation upon sin, God has made it so that man needs to work by the sweat of his brow, thus giving man less idle time to sin (Gen. 3:19), and God has intentionally deprived our flesh from the fruit that sustains life, lest sin live forever (Gen. 3:22).
Man was created mortal and needed to eat from the tree of life to sustain his life. This is why the tree was in the Garden to begin with. If man was created immortal, without need of the tree of life, there was no reason for the tree of life to be in the Garden in the first place. But man was told that he could eat from all the fruits in the Garden, including that of the tree of life, except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). Man’s immortality in the Garden depended upon His continual obedience to God. He could continue to stay in the Garden and continue to eat from the tree of life if He continued to obey God.
Adam’s removal from the tree of life has consequently affected us all. If the head of a home loses his job and the means of sustaining his family, his whole family suffers as a natural consequence. It is not that the employer was punishing his entire family, but that his family naturally suffers in consequence of what happened. Adam, as the head of our race, has brought the consequence of physical death to all of us by losing his position in the Garden of Eden where the tree of life was. It is not that God is punishing all of us for Adam’s sin, but that we naturally suffer as a consequence of what has happened.
Irenaeus said, “By means of our first parents, we were all brought into bondage by being made subject to death.”59
Gordon C. Olson said, “The ‘tree of life’ in the midst of the most pleasant garden where man was invited to dwell must be suggestive of something. I suggest that it may have been the means of keeping man’s physical body and soul in vigor and to prevent decay and death. This is suggested also in Gen. 3:24, where man is prevented from taking of the tree of life after the fall. In vs 22, the reason is stated, ‘lest he…eat and live forever.” Not, presumably, that if he had eaten one time from it, he would have lived forever, but lest he keep on eating from it and thus keep on living forever.”60
Dr. Wiggers said, “Here it is to be remarked that, with the fathers, as Erasmus has suggested, the expression to die or to die in Adam, is synonymous with being driven out of Paradise, because they who were driven out ofParadise, were no more allowed to eat of the fruit of the tree of life. At least this is the common meaning. For us to have died in Adam, is nothing else than what Methodius, in a fragment in Epiphanius (Haer. 64), thus expresses, ‘We were driven out of Paradise in the first father.”61
Some have argued for the sinfulness of infants by the fact that infants at times physically die. But the deaths of infants do not mean that they are not innocent, since animals die and they haven’t sinned, and Jesus Christ died and he was innocent. Therefore, infants can be subjected to physical death even though they are innocent. The wages of sin is eternal death, not physical death.
But if an infant dies, he will go to heaven and not hell. That is because an infant has no sin to go to hell for. King David was comforted because of his belief that he will go to see his child one day (2 Sam. 12:22). Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belonged to little children (Matt. 19:14; Mk. 10:14; Lk. 18:16). Until children develop and make the conscious choice to violate God’s law, they are morally innocent and do not deserve damnation. Infants are not sinners merely because they are made of flesh or because of the nature they are born with, and no child deserves hell merely because God forms them in the womb, creating and composing them of physical substance.
Sin is a state of the will. Sin is not a state of our flesh, body, substance, constitution, composition, or nature. Charles Finney said, “The fact is, sin never can consist in having a nature, nor in what nature is, but only and alone in the bad use which we make of our nature. This is all. Our Maker will never find fault with us for what He has Himself done or made; certainly not. He will not condemn us, if we will only make a right use of our powers – of our intellect, our sensibilities, and our will. He never holds us responsible for our original nature… since there is no law against nature, nature cannot be a transgression… man’s nature is not a proper subject for legislation, precept, and penalty, inasmuch as it lies entirely without the pale of voluntary action, or of any action of man at all.”62
Finney’s logic is sound. Sin is the choice to violate God’s law. God’s law tells us what type of choices to have, not what type of substance to be made of. Therefore, choices can be sinful but our substance cannot be. Since sin is a choice and not a substance, then men can only be sinful by choice and cannot be sinful by substance.
The law doesn’t tell us what type of nature to have, but what type of choices to make. If the law was meant to reveal our wickedness (Rom.7:7, 13), and our wickedness consists in our nature, why doesn’t the law say anything about our nature? The law only talks about our choices. If the law was meant to reveal our sin, and the law only talks about our choices, than our sin must consist solely in our choices. If our sin consists of our nature, but the law talks only about choices and nothing about our nature, then the law would not really reveal our wickedness. The law only reveals our wickedness if our sin is our choice, since God’s law only talks about our choices. Clearly, the wickedness of man consists in the state of his will, not in the state of his nature, composition, substance, flesh, body, or constitution.
Sin is not the involuntary state of your nature but the voluntary usage of the faculties of your nature. It is not that man’s nature is sinful, but that man can choose to use the nature God gave him sinfully. Thus, man’s sinfulness is his own fault, not the fault of his Creator. The faculties of man’s nature which God granted can be used for either holiness or sin.
It is very important to this discussion to understand that the Gnostic’s taught that the flesh was sinful in and of itself. That is why they denied that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (1 Jn. 4:3, 2 Jn. 1:7). Gnosticism believes that sin is the substance of the body and the Scriptures called them “antichrist.” Gnosticism attributes moral qualities to states of matter and believes that our flesh is inherently and intrinsically evil.
It is one thing to say that our flesh can be used for sin and quite another thing altogether to say that our flesh is sin. The Bible says our flesh is an instrument or a tool which we could use for sin or use for righteousness, but not that our flesh is itself a sin. The moral quality of our members is not intrinsic but depends entirely upon how we choose to use them. Whether our flesh is an instrument used for righteousness or whether our flesh is an instrument used for wickedness is a matter of our own free choice.
Paul said, “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:13). Paul also said, “for as ye have yielded your members servants of uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness” (Rom. 6:19).
If your flesh was a sin, Paul was saying that you should not yield your sin as an instrument for sin, but that you should yield your sin as an instrument for righteousness! But that doesn’t make any sense! Rather, Paul was saying that sin is not the substance of our body, but we can choose to use our flesh for sin or use our flesh for the service of God.
To be a servant of sin or to be a servant of righteousness is not a matter of nature, but a matter of choice. Our flesh is not created as a servant of sin or a servant of righteousness, but after we are created, we choose to “yield” our flesh to the service of righteousness or sin. The Bible says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). The words “let” and “obey” indicates the consent and obedience of the will.
Commenting on these passages, Pelagius said, “…sin reigns in the body, namely, by obedience and consent… Every single member is made a weapon of wickedness to defeat righteousness, if it turns its function to bad use. At the same time it should be noted that it is through freedom of choice that a person offers his members for whatever side he wishes…. We present our members to serve sin: it is not the case, as the Manichaeans say, that it was the nature of the body to have sin mixed in.”63
A. W. Tozer said, “It is important that we realize the human body is simply an instrument, because there are those who have taught that Christ could not be God in the flesh because the body is evil and God would not thus come in contact with evil. The false premise there is the belief that the human body is evil. There is no evil within inert matter. There is nothing evil in matter itself. Evil lies in the spirit. Evils of the heart, of the mind, of the soul, of the spirit – these have to do with man’s sin, and the only reason the human body does evil is because the human spirit uses it to do evil…. No, sin does not lie in the human body. There is nothing in the human body that is bad. Sin lies in the will of man and when the man wills to sin, he uses his body as a harmless, helpless instrument to do his evil purpose.”64
To counteract the Gnostic idea that matter was intrinsically evil, or that the flesh was in and of itself sinful, Paul said that we can choose to sanctify our flesh, to set apart our bodies for the service of God, so that our body can be holy. Paul said, “I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thes. 4:3-4). “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thes. 5:23). “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim. 2:8).
Paul commanded, “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20). Paul said that whether we are absent or present in the body we are to be acceptable unto God (2 Cor. 5:9). He also said, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16-17).
It should be evident from all of these passages that the Scriptures do not support that Gnostic doctrine that the flesh is sinful or that the body is evil, but that it is an instrument which can be used either way, and in the case of the Christian, it is actually holy or sanctified.
On this point it is important to distinguish between sanctification and glorification. The difference between having a glorified flesh and having a sanctified flesh is this: a sanctified flesh has to do with how we morally use our bodies, while a glorified flesh has to do with the physical quality of our bodies themselves. We certainly cannot have a glorified body in this life, but we can have a sanctified body in this life. That means that we cannot have a physically perfect body in this world (Php. 3:11-12), but we certainly don’t have to use our body to sin or choose to gratify our flesh through sin. We can sanctify our flesh in this world. We can set apart our body from sin to the service of God. Christians still live “in the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3), but they do not live “according” to the flesh (2 Cor. 10:2), or live “after the flesh” (Rom. 8:1; 8:5). We still have a body but we are not selfishly living to gratify our flesh. Those who belong to Christ choose to walk after the spirit and no longer live to gratify the lusts of their flesh (Gal 5:16, 5:24).
We do not need to wait until glorification in order to experience sanctification. Since we are not born sinful or with a sinful body, but men are sinful by their own free choice, we do not need to wait until we die or until we cease to have these physical bodies in order to cease to be sinful, as Gnosticism taught. We can freely choose not to be sinful in this life.
This is why the Bible commands us, in this life, to cease to be evil and to be sinful no more. Two mistaken concepts theologians often hold to are, “You cannot become holy on earth.” And, “You cannot become sinful in heaven.” These ideas are in error because we know that there were angels who became sinful while in heaven, and we know that Jesus Christ, who is our example to follow, lived holy on earth.
The angels in heaven right now could sin, they could become demons like the others, but they don’t want to. When we make it to heaven as the saints of God, we too could sin but we won’t want to. We will be “as the angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30). We will use our free will to be obedient to God for all of eternity, while retaining the liberty to become evil if we wanted to.
Those without glorified bodies are free to choose to be sanctified, and those with glorified bodies are free to choose to be sinful. Having a glorified body does not force one to be holy, nor does having a body not yet glorified force one to be sinful. Being sinful or being holy is not determined by the nature of your body, but by the determination of your free will.
Gnosticism Is Still Alive and Well Today
The idea of moral character existing before moral choices exist, or of moral character deriving its existence from something other than moral choices such as our body or our nature, is a Gnostic moral philosophy. How can our moral character truly be called “moral” if it has nothing to do with our choices, and consequently nothing to do with God’s law, but rather has to do with our nature, substance, constitution, or composition? If we fail to distinguish between sin and temptation, between the physical and the moral, between nature and character, between natural attributes and moral attributes, we will fall into the error of Gnosticism.
While I was preaching on theNorth CarolinaStateUniversitycampus, I asked a Calvinist this question, “Is the body a sin?” He said, “Yes our bodies are made of sin.” I asked, “You can put sin under a microscope and look at it?” He said, “Sure.”
While I was preaching on the Alabama A&M campus, a man said to me, “You can’t stop sinning. Even waking up is a sin because you wake up in sinful flesh.”
While I was open air preaching at theUniversityofTexasinAustin, I said, “Go and sin no more.” To this a Calvinist responded, “Just the fact that we are composed of flesh makes us sinners…”
While I was open air preaching to students atTylerJunior CollegeinTexas, I said, “Sin is a voluntary choice to violate God’s law.” A Calvinist in the crowd responded by saying, “Your body is sin. You are a sinner because you have a body. And so long as you are in your body, you are a sinner!”
Just recently a Calvinist sent me a personal message that said, “Your body is sinful and will be until death.” These types of statements from Calvinists are Gnostic at their very essence.
After traveling the length and breadth of this nation and talking to thousands of people, I have concluded that Gnosticism is alive and well today. I have been shocked at how many Gnostic Calvinists I have encountered. The very idea that your body is sinful, and that because of this you cannot be morally perfect until you get a glorified body, is nothing short of pure Gnosticism. Yet many today claim that you cannot be free from sin until you die!
The truth is that your body does not make you unholy; and therefore, you don’t need a new body in order to be made holy. Your body is not sinful, so you don’t need a new body to be free from sin. The command to “be ye therefore perfect” (Matt. 5:48) certainly takes for granted that moral perfection is a choice of the will and not an involuntary state of the body, which we have absolutely no control over. A command implies that the object which is being commanded can be acquired by the choice of the will, and that the thing which is being forbidden can be avoided by the choice of the will. Therefore, moral perfection is a choice of the will, not a state of your body.
Since your body is not sinful, and since your body doesn’t make you sin, you don’t need a new body to be free from sin. Adam sinned with a perfect or glorified body, and Jesus Christ was sinless while he was in a depraved or fallen body. He was sinless while having a body that was not yet glorified. Therefore, a depraved body does not necessarily make you sinful. Neither does a glorified body necessarily make you holy. Being sinful or being holy does not depend upon the physical state or quality of your body, but upon the moral state or quality of your will.
Since Gnosticism fails to distinguish between the physical and the moral, they they fail to properly distinguish between physical depravity and moral depravity and between physical perfection and moral perfection. Gnostic moral philosophy says that sin is a substance of matter and is not limited to free will choices. To view sin as a state of the body, or a state of human nature, rather than a state of the will, is to have a Gnostic view of sin and human nature. The whole idea that man has a sinful nature, or that man’s nature is sinful in and of itself, or that man is sinful through hereditary inheritance rather than through voluntary choice, is nothing more than the remains of Gnostic and Manichaean philosophy surviving through Augustinian, Lutheran, and Calvinistic theology.
John Calvin said, “Augustine laboured to show, that we are not corrupted by acquired wickedness, but bringing an innate corruption from the very womb…”65
In other words, wickedness was not the fault of the individual, since they did not cause it by their own free will, but was the fault of their constitution or design, acquiring it during the formation of their composition while in the womb.
Dean Harvey said, “The concept of inherited sin is a philosophical construct applied to theology. It is not found in the Bible.”66
In regards to original sin or constitutional sinfulness, Charles Finney said, “This doctrine is a stumbling-block both to the church and the world, infinitely dishonorable to God, and an abomination alike to God and the human intellect, and should be banished from every pulpit, and from every formula of doctrine, and from the world. It is a relic of heathen philosophy, and was foisted in among the doctrines of Christianity by Augustine, as everyone may know who will take the trouble to examine for himself.”67
Harry Conn said, “Augustine, after studying the philosophy of Manes, the Persian philosopher, brought into the church from Manichaeism the doctrine of original sin.”68
Augustine’s theological term, “the transmission of sin,” presupposes the Gnostic view that sin is some sort of substance that can be hereditary rather than a personal choice originated by the will. In a Gnostic world-view, sin is blamed on man’s nature rather than on man’s free will. In the Christian world-view, however, this is not true. These notions were completely foreign to theEarlyChurchand even refuted by them, as they were only held by the Gnostics. It was not until Augustine converted from Manichaean Gnosticism that he brought these views with him into the Church. Many all throughout Church history have refuted these erroneous Gnostic views of human flesh or human nature, as we shall now see.
God Is Not the Author of Sin
Man is both a physical and a spiritual being. Our constitution is both physical and spiritual. It is not true however, as the Gnostics supposed, that the physical is evil but the spiritual is good, since God is the Creator of both physical reality and the spiritual reality. In fact, God forms us both physically and spiritually in the womb. He is the maker of our spiritual and physical constitution. The Bible says, “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all” (Ecc. 11:5).
Our physical and spiritual state at birth is the direct result of the working of God, who is the author of man’s nature or constitution. Unless we are willing to believe that God is the author of sin, we cannot accept the theory or view that sin is the result of our physical or spiritual nature. To blame your sinfulness upon your free will or to confess being a sinner by choice is to humbly and fully take responsibility for your sin. But to blame your sinfulness on your birth or on your nature is to blame your Creator who formed you in the womb.
Charles Finney said, “To represent the constitution as sinful, is to present God, who is the author of the constitution, as the author of sin.”69
A writer in theEarlyChurch, either Pelagius or one of his followers, said, “…it is impious to say that sin is inherent in nature, because in this way the author of nature is being judged at fault.”70 And he said, “…all sin is to be attributed to the free choice of the will, not to the defects of nature…”71
Winkie Pratney said, “To equate humanity with sinfulness is to make God the Author of His own worst enemy; to make God responsible for the thing that has brought Him unhappiness.”72
Julian of Eclanum said, “…the good God is the maker of those that are born, by whom all things were made, and that the children of men are His work.”73
He also said, “God is the Maker of all those that are born, and that the sons of men are God’s work; and that all sin descends not from nature, but from the will.”74
Asa Mahan said, “If the above dogma is true, it is demonstrably evident, that this corrupt nature comes into existence without the knowledge, choice, or agency of the creature, who for its existence is pronounced deserving of, and ‘bound over to the wrath of God.’ Equally evident is it that this corrupt nature exists as the result of the direct agency of God. He proclaims himself the maker of ‘every soul of man.’ As its Maker, He must have imparted to that soul the constitution or nature which it actually possesses. It does not help the matter at all, to say, that this nature is derived from our progenitor: for the laws of generation, by which this corrupt nature is derived from that progenitor, are sustained and continued by God himself… If, then, the above dogma is true, man in the first place, is held as deserving of eternal punishment for that which exists wholly independent of his knowledge, choice or agency, in any sense, direct or indirect, He is also held responsible for the result, not of his own agency, but for that which results from the agency of God.” 75
It is very important on this point to remember that the Scriptures say that God is the author of our nature. He is the creator of our constitution. We are the work of His hands since He forms us in the womb. Just as the Bible says that God formed Adam and Eve (Gen. 2:7-8; 1 Tim. 2:13), the Bible uses the same word and language to say that God forms us in the womb (Gen. 4:1; Ex. 4:11; Deut. 32:18; Isa. 27:11; 43:1; 43:7; 44:2; 44:24; 49:5; 64:8; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 26:10; 95:6; 127:3; 139:13-14, 16; Prov. 20:12; 26:10; Ecc. 7:29; Job 10:8-11; 31:15; 35:10; Mal. 2:10; Acts 17:29; Rom. 9:20; Eph. 3:9; 4:6; Col. 1:16; Jn. 1:3). “And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Exo. 4:11). “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God” (Acts 17:29). “Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about… thou hast made me as the clay… Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh, and hast fenced me with bones and sinews” (Job 10:8-9, 11). “The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them” (Prov. 20:12). “The great God formed all things” (Prov. 26:10). “Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things” (Isa. 44:24). “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made” (Jn. 1:3). “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. 11:36). “God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Eph 3:9). “For by him were all things created… all things were created by him… by him all things consist” (Col. 1:16-17). The “all things” that have been made by Christ include all the human natures which are made and created in the womb.
Who then is it that “formed thee from the womb” according to the Bible? It is “the Lord, thy redeemer” who “maketh all things.” But remember, Augustine held to a Gnostic moral philosophy and taught, according to Calvin, that wickedness was not “acquired” by personal choices, but was an “innate corruption from the very womb…”76
Is it true that sin is not our fault? Is sin really a birth defect? To blame sin upon our formation in the womb is to blame the Lord for our sin, since He formed us in the womb. To blame sin upon a corrupted constitution is to blame our Creator for sin. To blame sin upon a faulty design is to blame sin upon our Designer.
Martin Luther, who we have seen was a student of Augustine’s writings, believed that God is the author of our nature, and that we are born with a sinful nature, and therefore he said that God “ceases not to form and multiply that nature, which… is defiled by sin…”77 In other words, Luther was saying that God multiplies man’s sinful nature by forming us all with a sinful nature!
This would be Luther’s position put into a logical syllogism:
- Our nature is sinful.
- God is the author of our nature.
- Therefore, God forms us with a sinful nature.
The reason that he came to the wrong conclusion was because he started with the wrong premise. We should reason like this:
- God is the author of our nature.
- God is not the author of sin.
- Therefore, we are not born with a sinful nature.
Origen said, “not a single one is formed wicked by the Creator of all things…”78
Eusebius said, “The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God is has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good. Everything is good which is according to nature. Every rational soul has naturally a good free-will, formed for the choice of what is good. But when a man acts wrongly, nature is not to be blamed; for what is wrong, takes place not according to nature, but contrary to nature, it being the work of choice, and not of nature!”79
Methodius said that “the Divine Being is not by nature implicated in evils. Therefore our birth is not the cause of these things…”80
He went on to say that men are “possessing free will, and not by nature evil…”81
He also said, “there is nothing evil by nature, but it is by use that evil things become such. So I say, says he, that man was made with free-will, not as if there were already evil in existence, which he had the power of choosing if he wished, but on account of his capacity of obeying or disobeying God. For this was the meaning of the gift of free will… and this alone is evil, namely, disobedience…”82
And Methodius also said, “God did not make evil, nor is He at all in any way the author of evil; but whatever failed to keep the law, which He in all justice ordained, after being made by Him with the faculty of free-will, for the purpose of guarding and keeping it, is called evil. Now it is the gravest fault to disobey God, by overstepping the bounds of that righteousness which is consistent with free-will…”83
We are not formed or fashioned in the womb wicked by God but we become wicked by choice after we are born. God certainly would not create us in the womb with a sinful nature since God hates sin and does not even tempt anyone to sin (Jas. 1:13). James goes on to tell us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (Jas. 1:17), but if God gives us a sinful nature, that is not a good gift! We could say, “The worst of all gifts is from above!”
How could we say “I will…ascribe righteousness to my Maker” (Job 36:3), if He makes us with a sinful nature? We couldn’t “ascribe righteousness to my Maker” if we are involuntarily and unavoidably made sinful by no fault of our own, but were made sinful because of the formation of our God given nature.
We know that God does not form us in the womb with a sinful nature since the Bible says that we are wonderfully made. King David said, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are they works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Ps. 139:14). We could not be wonderfully made if we were sinfully made. God’s works could not be marvelous if God created sinfulness.
Paul said, “For every creature of God is good” (1 Tim. 4:4). Clearly, God does not make men sinners but men make themselves transgressors. This is why the Bible says, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made men upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Ecc. 7:29). If sinners were honest with themselves, they would say what the Bible says, “I make myself a transgressor” (Gal. 2:18). Sin is not the fault of our constitution, but it is our own fault, because it is caused by our deliberate misuse of our constitution.
To say that we are born sinners is to say that God, who forms us in the womb, creates us as sinners. If God creates us as sinners, God forces us to be sinful. And if God forces us to be sinful, we cannot be responsible or accountable for being sinful. We cannot be justly punished for being what God created us as.
If God created us sinners, we would not be the real sinners but God would be the real sinner. This is because our sinfulness would not be caused by ourselves but by Him. If God creates us sinners, sin is really His fault and consequently, He is not righteous or good. The reason that God is righteous is because He never causes the existence of sin, and the reason that He is good is because He cares for the well-being of everyone. Therefore, since God is good and righteous, we can conclude that He does not form anyone in the womb as a sinner or make anyone necessarily sinful.
While I was open air preaching at theUniversityofMinnesotainDuluth, one of the students asked me, “Why did God create sin?” I explained, “Sin was not part of God’s creation. Sin is a choice that men and angels have made. God is not the author of sin. Sin is originated by other moral beings. Sin is the wrong use of free will. Sin is not some substance that God created. Sin is a free choice that moral beings have made. Sin is not God’s creation, it is our own. Each sinner creates or originates their sin. Each individual is the author of their own moral character.”
Man, not God, is at blame for sin. This is because sin is the result of free will, not the result of a sinful nature. Sin is the fruit of our will and not the necessity of our flesh or the state of our nature. Sin is man’s fault. Man is to be blamed for sin. That is because man is the cause of sin. Sin is man’s choice. Sin is the fault of our own will. Sin is not God’s fault. God is not to be blamed for sin. God is not the cause of sin. That is because sin is not the fault of the nature God has given us. Everything God makes is good (Gen. 1:31; 1 Tim. 4:4). The problem with the world is not the nature God has given us. The problem is that God’s creation has corrupted itself (Gen. 6:12). The problem with the world is the choices that men have made. The problem is not with nature itself but with the will of man.
When expounding upon ethics and metaphysics in relation to sin, Cornelius Van Til said, “Sin is exclusively ethical hostility to God…”84 But to talk of a sinful nature is a confusion of meaning and a contradiction in terms. That is because what is sinful belongs to ethics, but nature belongs to metaphysics. That which belongs to ethics and that which belongs to metaphysics are completely different in nature. Ethics deals with the moral quality of choices and behaviors, while metaphysics deals with the structure and composition of things. To confuse ethics with metaphysicals, by assigning inherent or intrinsic moral qualities to metaphysical or material objects, is confusion of the worst kind.
Charles Finney said, “…it is impossible that sin should be a quality of the substance of body or soul. It is, and must be, a quality of choice or intention, and not of substance. To make sin an attribute or quality of substance is contrary to God’s definition of sin. ‘Sin,’ says the apostle, ‘is anomia,’ a “transgression of, or a want of conformity to, the moral law.” That is, it consists in a refusal to love God and our neighbour, or, which is the same thing, in loving ourselves supremely… Sin a substance! Is it a solid, a fluid, a material, or a spiritual substance?”85
Pelagius said, “…we have to inquire what sin is, – some substance, or wholly a name without substance, whereby is expressed not a thing, not an existence, not some sort of a body, but the doing of a wrongful deed.”86
Winkie Pratney said, “good and evil are not qualities of substance or essence, but character… sin itself is a moral (not physical) creation of rebellious moral beings…”87
As we have seen, sin is not a substance of the body. Sin is a choice of the will. Jesus implied this when he said “go sin no more” (Jn. 8:11). This command takes for granted that all sin is a choice, or that all sin is volitional and deliberate, something which we have control over. The Bible doesn’t say about sinners, “Their substance is evil.” Nor does it say, “Their substance should be reproved.” But rather it says, “their deeds were evil” (Jn. 3:19), and that their “deeds should be reproved” (Jn. 3:20). To be born again is to put off the old man “with his deeds” (Col. 3:9), not to put off the old man “with his substance or composition.” Men are sinful, not because of the work of God, but because of their own work, not because of what God made them of, but because of what they have made themselves. Sin is not some involuntary substance that we are made of, or some involuntary substance that indwells us, but is our own choice or voluntary state of our heart. All sin consists in sinning.
Contrary to Augustinian theology, the Bible does not teach that we will always have “indwelling sin” which we cannot get rid of, or that we have this “indwelling sin” independent of our own will and choice. “Indwelling sin” in the Bible is something which we have the power to get rid of because it is inside of us by our consent or choice. “Indwelling sin” is a choice of the will. It is a disobedient heart.
The Scriptures teach that it is a choice to have sin inside of you or not. “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof” (Rom. 6:12). The phrase “let not” implies the consent of the individual. “If iniquity be in thine hand, put it away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles” (Job 11:14). The phrases “put it away” and “let not” implies the choice of the will. “Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh” (Ecc. 11:10). To “remove” or “put away” is a choice of our will. Jesus said, “Cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside may be clean also.” We must choose to put away any sin that is within us.
Since sin is a choice, to be free from sin is a choice. God commands sinners to turn themselves from “all” their transgressions and to cast away from themselves “all” their sins (Eze. 18:30-31). This takes for granted that “all” sin is their choice and that it is something which they have control over. We are told to cleanse ourselves from “all filthiness of the flesh” (2 Cor. 7:1), And we are told, “lay aside every weight and sin” (Heb. 12:1). This too implies that “all” and “every” sin is our choice which we have control over.
Clearly, no sin is involuntary or something which exists independent of the will. Sin does not consist in the involuntary states of our nature, since we have no control over what type of nature we are born with and we have no power to change or alter our nature. But all sin consists in the voluntary states of our will, something which we do have power to change and alter. Men are not sinful by created constitution but by their own chosen character. Men are not morally good or evil by their creation but by their own personal choice.
We are taught to train our children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). This presupposes that their behavior is not determined or necessitated by their nature but by their will. It presupposes that they have the power of choice to determine how they are going to live and that through teaching we can influence them to make the right choices. The bad behavior of little children is often due to their ignorance, which is why we need to teach and train them. Often times they do not know to act better than they do.
We are also taught about the goodness of physically disciplining our children (Deut. 21:18; Prov. 22:15; 29:15). Just as penalty is the enforcement of precepts in moral government, so sanctions is the enforcement of precepts in family government. Just as God would encourage His universe to disrespect and disobey His law if He did not consistently uphold and maintain it, we too teach our children to disrespect and to disobey our commands if we do not discipline them, or if we are not consistent in our discipline. If we command them but do not discipline them in order to enforce the command, we are in fact encouraging their disobedience. We are teaching them that they do not need to respect or obey our law.
Parents have asked, “If my little child doesn’t have a sinful nature, who taught my little child to be so rebellious?” The answer is that parents teachtheir children to be that way by not properly influencing their wills through the consistent enforcement of family government. But we can teach them to respect and obey our commands through consistent discipline. Their behavior, good or bad, is not determined by their nature but by their will. Their choices are made after motives are contemplated in their minds. If they think in their minds that they can get what they want by screaming and having a fit, because we have taught them through their experience that they get what they want when they do those things, then they will continue to do those things as we have taught them to. But if they think that they will suffer a spanking if they scream and have a fit, because we have taught them this through experience, then this consideration in their mind will help them to stop doing those things and to start making better choices.
Choices of the will are made in light of the perceived incentives and motives in the mind. If they think they will benefit in that behavior, they will continue in it. But if they think they will suffer through that behavior, they will choose to act differently. The fact that the Bible teaches us to physically discipline our children implies that bad behavior is the result of their own will, not necessitated by their nature. If their behavior was a necessity of their nature, instead of that which was chosen or determined by free will, teaching our children would be useless and disciplining them would be cruel. You cannot spank their supposed sinful nature out of them if they had one, but you can influence the choices of their free will through instruction and discipline.
You cannot hold a child responsible for that which they could not have avoided, or threaten to punish them if they do that which their nature forces them to do. Disciplining children presupposes that their behavior and moral character is their own fault, which they could have avoided; that it was self-caused, self-determined, or self-originated, deriving from their own free will. The Bible teaches that obedience is “learned,” not inherited (Heb. 5:8), as all moral character is learned and acquired, not inherited, inherent, or innate.
The fact that God punishes sinners for their sin shows that sin is caused by the liberty of their will, not the necessity of their nature. If sin were necessitated by a sinful nature, then sin is not their fault and they cannot be justly punished for it. If sin is caused by the freedom of their will, then sin is their fault and they can be justly punished for it. No being can be justly punished for what was involuntary or unavoidable. You cannot punish or blame men for their sinfulness unless they are the cause of their sinfulness. If men were created sinful because of some sinful nature, they would deserve no punishment at all since it was not their fault or their doing. But if men chose to be sinful, then they do deserve punishment, because it is their own fault and choice.
Tertullian said, “No reward can be justly bestowed, no punishment can be justly inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice.”88
Justin Martyr said, “If a man were created evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for.”89
Origen said, “The Scriptures…emphasize the freedom of the will. They condemn those who sin, and approve those who do right… We are responsible for being bad and worthy of being cast outside. For it is not the nature in us that is the cause of the evil; rather, it is the voluntary choice that works evil.”90
Irenaeus said, “Those who do not do it [good] will receive the just judgment of God, because they had not work good when they had it in their power to do so. But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for they were created that way. Nor would the former be reprehensible, for that is how they were made. However, all men are of the same nature. They are all able to hold fast and to go what is good. On the other hand, they have the power to cast good from them and not to do it.”91
Alfred T. Overstreet said, “But isn’t it a monstrous and a blasphemous dogma to say that God is angry with any of his creatures for possessing the nature which he created them? What? Can God be angry with his creatures for possessing the nature that he himself has given them? Never! God is not angry with men for possessing the nature he has given them, but only for the perversion of that nature. The Bible represents God as angry with men for their wicked deeds, and not for the nature with which they are born…”92
Men cannot be justly punished for being what they are by nature, for if their state is by nature then it is not by choice, and if their state is not by choice it is not their fault, and if their state is not their fault they cannot be responsible and punished for being in that state. Therefore, if men are sinners by nature they cannot be held responsible or be punishable, and consequently, they do not need a Savior at all. Unless, that is, a Savior came to save them from unjust and cruel punishment. But the Savior came to save us from the punishment that we truly deserve; and therefore, our sinful state must be our own fault or choice.
The fact that Jesus Christ rebuked sin (Rev. 3:19), and that we are called to rebuke sin (Lev. 19:17; Lk. 17:3; 1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15), both presupposes that sin is a choice of a person’s will and not a state of their nature. It implies that their sinfulness is voluntary and is their own fault. It implies that their moral character is within the realm of their own control. If a man is born sinful because of the nature they inherit, their sinfulness is not their fault and it makes no sense to rebuke them for their sinfulness. But if a man is sinful or a sinner by choice, if a sinner is the cause and creator of sin, then rebuking him makes total sense.
The very words “sinner” and “transgressor” implies choice. A sinner is someone who has made the choice to sin. A transgressor is someone who has made the choice to transgress God’s law. Sin or sinfulness is not a hereditary nature but is a choice to violate God’s law (1 Jn. 3:4). Evil is something that the will of a moral being can refuse, and good is something that the will of a moral being can choose. As the Bible says, “refuse the evil, and choose the good” (Isa. 7:15-16). The will is always involved in a person’s moral state since good and evil are volitional.
The command, “Let your heart therefore be perfect” (1 Kin. 8:61), “be ye therefore perfect” (Matt. 5:48), and “be ye holy” (1 Pet. 1:15), all implies that holiness is volitional. And the command, “cease to do evil” (Isa. 1:16), and to “sin no more” (Jn. 8:11), also implies that all sin is volitional and avoidable. A command is a declaration as to what type of choice you should and shouldn’t make. If what is commanded is not a choice, the command is pointless. If we have no choice in the matter, there would be no purpose in commanding us.
Moral Character Is Not Hereditary
Augustinian theologians have taught that when Adam sinned, our human constitution became sinful and we have all inherited this sinful constitution through natural generation. The problem with this is that your constitution does not become “sinful” because you choose to sin. Neither does your constitution become “righteous” when you choose righteousness. Your constitution stays the same even when your choices change. It is your moral character, not your constitution, which changes as often as your choices change.
There are no moral qualities in our constitution itself, since it is completely involuntary and beyond the scope of the legislation of God’s law. There are only moral qualities in our choices, since they are determined by us and are under the legislation of God’s law. To be wicked or righteousness is a matter of choice, not a matter of constitution or composition. No moral being is holy or sinful by mere passive existence. Rather, all moral beings are holy or sinful by active choice.
Sinfulness and holiness are moral attributes or moral qualities; and therefore, they must be voluntary. The idea of “inherited sinfulness” or “inherited righteousness” is an absurd contradiction. It is an oxymoron because if the quality is inherited, then it is involuntary. And if the quality is sinful or a moral attribute, then it must be voluntary. To inherit any moral quality, or to have an involuntary moral character, is a nonsensical contradiction. Sinfulness and holiness are descriptions of a person’s moral character; and therefore, they must be caused by their will.
Moral character is determined by the will’s obedience or disobedience to the moral knowledge of the mind. When a man does what he knows is wrong, he is blameworthy. But if a man does all that he knows to do, he is blameless. His heart is not evil and his character has no blemish if he does what he knows is right. Moral character, whether it is a good or evil character, is determined by the response of the will to the moral knowledge that the mind possesses. No moral being is holy or sinful, or can be holy or sinful, independent of their will. This is true of man, angels, and even God.
While your constitution is beyond the scope or limitation of your will power, your character is not. We do not choose what constitution we have, but we do choose what moral choices we make. So while your constitution is hereditary, your character is not.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, said, “…my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:47). Mary did not have some “immaculate conception” which somehow made her sinless her entire life or “free from any personal or hereditary sin,”93 as Augustinians have claimed. If Mary needed a Savior, she must have had sins she needed saving from. If Mary was sinless her entire life, she would need no Savior at all. If sin or guilt is transmitted from parent to child, then Jesus Christ would have been born sinful and guilty. Because Jesus was not born a sinner, or born sinful and guilty, then we can conclude that sin and guilt is not transmitted from parent to child.
There are other examples of how character is not hereditary. We are told that Job was a perfect man (Job 1:8), but his children probably were not (Job 1:5). Cain and Abel were both children of Adam, but one was righteous and one was unrighteous (Matt. 23:35; Heb. 11:4; 1 Jn. 3:12). We are told that Cain’s “own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” (1 Jn. 3:12). From these examples we can conclude that moral character is not the result of heredity but the result of personal choice. Sinful parents do not give birth to sinful children anymore than righteous parents give birth to righteous children. While children may imitate the moral character of their parents, children do not inherit the moral character of their parents. Parents may train their children in their way of life, but parents do not transmit to their children their way of life.
The story of Amon illustrates that a son can imitate the evil moral character of their parent. “Amon…. did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did. And walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them” (2 Kin. 21:19-21). The story of Jehoshaphat illustrates how a son can imitate the good moral character of their parent, as he “walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 20:31-32). Clearly, a person can imitate or follow their parent’s example, whether good or evil.
We see other examples of moral imitation as well. “Nadab…. Did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father” (1 Kin. 15:25-26). “Ahaziah…. did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother” (1 Kin. 22:51-52). They walked in the way of their fathers, but their moral character was not determined by their ancestry. We are told that “Ahaz…. did not that which was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father” (2 Chron. 28:1). Children grow up and sometimes imitate their parents in their way of life and sometimes they do not.
The fact that moral character is not transmitted from parent to child is shown by “Solomon” who “did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father” (1 Kin. 11:6). There were righteous kings who had sons who did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and there were evil kings who had sons who did what was right in the sight of the Lord. This shows that your moral character is not determined by the moral character of your parents, or by the nature that you inherit from them, but by your own personal use of your free will.
We are told that a “just” man can “beget a son that is a robber…” (Eze. 18:9-10) Then that same wicked son can “beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like…” (Eze. 18:14) These examples are clear. The righteous can have wicked offspring and the wicked can have righteous offspring. Each person determines for themselves what their moral character will be.
Jed Smock said, “A good or bad character is acquired, not innate.”94
Your moral character is either sinful or holy. Sinfulness and holiness are voluntary states of the will; and therefore, these states are not hereditary and cannot be. Your inherited nature cannot be sinful or holy because your nature is not your voluntary choice. Your inherited nature cannot have any moral character at all, and you cannot be responsible and accountable for it, because it is not determined by your will. The nature that you inherit is within God’s control, not your own. Your moral character however is entirely within your own control because it is determined by your will. The reason that each individual is responsible and accountable for their moral character is because each individual is the author of their moral character.
Damnation & Salvation Are Not Hereditary
Since moral character is not hereditary, sin is not hereditary. Since sin is not hereditary, damnation is not hereditary. Damnation is personally deserved because sin is personally originated. Since punishment or damnation is according to personal choices, and since infants haven’t made any personal choices yet, infants cannot be punished or damned.
The idea of deserving punishment before you are born, or before you make choices, or before you have character, or before you are guilty, is nonsensical and inconceivable. The idea that you can personally deserve damnation before you have personally sinned is absurd and unjust.
Men do not deserve to burn in hell because their parents were sinners. Men deserve to burn in hell because they have chosen to be sinners. A man is innocent of a crime if he didn’t commit the crime. A man is guilty of a crime only if he committed the crime. A person can only be justly punished if they deserve to be punished, and a person can only deserve to be punished if they committed the crime.
“Doth God pervert judgment? Or doeth the Almighty pervert justice?” (Job 8:3) Does God condemn the innocent for the sins of the guilty? “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25) God answered in great detail to vindicate His character and to justify His judgment. He said, “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning theland ofIsrael, saying, the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb inIsrael. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die….Yet say ye, Why? Doeth not the son bear the iniquity of the fathers? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. 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” (Eze. 18:2-6, 19-20).
God has repeatedly said, “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; 2 Kng. 14:6; 2 Chron. 25:4). God has been so clear on this subject that it is amazing that anyone should ever be confused about it.
The explicit justice of God is that each individual is responsible and accountable for their own personal sins. This is contrasted with the injustice that John Calvin ascribed to God when he said, “Adam drew all his posterity with himself, by his fall, into eternal damnation…”95 It is not our fault that we are sons of Adam because it was not our choice to descend from him. Therefore, we cannot be punished merely for being sons of Adam. As a just Judge, God punishes men according to their personal deserts or demerits, according to the moral quality of their personal choices. Men are accountable for their choices and their choices only.
God will judge “every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:10).
“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27).
“…the righteous judgment of God: who will render every man according to his deeds” (Rom. 2:5-6).
“So then every one of us shall account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
“Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:15).
“…the Father, who without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man’s work” (1 Pet. 1:17).
“And I saw a great white throne… And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God. And the books were opened: and another book was opened which is the book of life: an the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev. 20:11-12).
“And, behold, I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12).
Clearly, we are responsible and accountable for our sins and our sins only.
A. W. Tozer said, “…men are not lost because of what someone did thousands of years ago; they are lost because they sin individually and in person. We will never be judged for Adam’s sin, but for our own. For our own sins we are and must remain fully responsible.”96
Theodore W. Elliot said, “…each person is responsible for his own sin and not for the sin of anyone else…”97
Albert Barnes said, “…men are not to be represented as to blame, or as ill-deserving, for a sin committed long before they were born, and that they are not to be called on to repent of it.”98
Leonard Ravenhill said, “God will not penalize me for Adam’s sin. God will not penalize Adam for my sin; but He will penalize each of us for our own sin.”98
Lord Coke said, “…no one is punished for the sin of another…”100
L. D. McCabe said, “The Scriptures nowhere teach that we are guilty of the sin of Adam, or that we are punished therefore.”101
John Fletcher said, “All our damnation is of ourselves, through our avoidable unfaithfulness . . . everyone shall die for his own avoidable iniquity.”102
Barnabas said, “He who chooses” to break the commandments “will be destroyed with his works…”103
Hermas said, “All who therefore despise Him and do not follow His commands deliver themselves to death, and each will be guilty of his own blood.”104
Origen said, “…we have freedom of will and we ourselves are the cause of our own ruin.”105
Titian said, “We die by our own fault. Our free will has destroyed us.”106
Even Prosper, a disciple of Augustine, said that those who “perish” do so because of “their voluntary iniquity.”107
Irenaeus said, “Man, a reasonable being, and in that respect like God, is made free in his will; and being endued with power to conduct himself, he is the cause of his own becoming sometimes wheat and sometimes chaff; therefore will he be justly condemned.”108
Baruch said, “For though Adam first sinned and brought ultimately death upon all, yet of those who were born from him, each one of them has prepared for his own soul torment to come, and again each one of them has chosen for himself glories to come. For assuredly he who believeth will receive reward. But now, as for you, you wicked that now are, turn you to destruction, because you shall speedily be visited, in that formerly you rejected the understanding of the Most High. For His works have not taught you, nor has the skill of His creation which is at all times persuaded you. Adam is therefore not the cause, save only of his own soul, but each of us has been the Adam of his own soul.”109
Since men are damned for their own sins and not for the sins of their ancestors, a person needs the atonement of Jesus Christ for their own sins and not for the sins of their ancestors. The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). “JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mat. 1:21).
A person only needs forgiveness for their own personal sins, which is why Jesus taught that God will “forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:15; Mk. 11:25; 11:26). No man is damned for the sin of another; and consequently, no man needs forgiveness through the atonement for the sin of another. No man needs forgiveness for a sin that they did not commit or cause. We do not need forgiveness for the singular “sin” of Adam. The Bible says that men need forgiveness for their own personal plural “sins” (Matt. 1:21; 26:28; Acts 2:38).
On the other hand, just as we do not inherit the damnation of our parents, neither do we inherit the salvation of our parents. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day thought that they did not need to repent and believed that they were already right with God merely because they were “children of Abraham.” John the Baptist confronted this error when he said, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father” (Lk. 3:8). Their ancestry did not exempt them from their personal need of repentance. They personally needed to repent because they personally sinned.
The descendants of Abraham did not inherit his salvation. That is why Jesus Christ told Nicodemus, who was a Jewish man in his old age, that he would need to be born again to enter the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3-7). Jesus was not telling Nicodemus that he needed to be born again because damnation was hereditary, but because salvation was not hereditary. Men need to repent and be born again, not because they are born with a sinful nature that damns them, but because they have personally chosen to sin. God never asks us to repent of the nature we inherit, or to repent of the ancestors that we descend from. God asks us to repent of our own personal choices of sin in order to be personally saved. Clearly then, neither damnation nor salvation is hereditary but both require personal or individual choice.
Albert Barnes said, “The work of salvation, and the work of damnation, are the two most deliberate and solemn acts of choosing, that mortal man ever performs.”109 And he said, “Christianity does not charge on men crimes of which they are not guilty. It does not say, as I suppose, that the sinner is held to be personally answerable for the transgression of Adam, or of any other man; or that God has given a law which man has no power to obey.”111
Jesus Christ was a Son of Adam
It has been taught by many theologians that the first sin of Adam somehow made his nature or constitution sinful, that we inherit our nature or constitution from Adam, and that therefore we are born with a nature or constitution that is sinful, and consequently all of Adam’s descendants inherit from him his sin, guilt, and damnation.
This is their view in logical syllogism:
- Adam’s nature became a sinful nature when he chose to sin.
- Adam’s descendants inherit their natures from him.
- Therefore, Adam’s descendants inherit from him a sinful nature.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation sinned in him, and fell with him in the first transgression.”112
The Catechism of Trent said, “Wherefore, the pastor should not omit to remind the faithful that the guilt and punishment of original sin were not confined to Adam, but justly descended from him, as from their source and cause, to all posterity.”113
Thomas Aquinas said, “…a human being begets descendants as in the human being’s nature…. And so a parent transmits to descendants the first sin that corrupted the nature…”114
WayneGrudem said, “…we also inherited a sinful nature because of Adam’s sin.”115
Lewis Chafer said, “The Augustinian or realistic theory holds that the connection between Adam and his posterity was such, that by his individual transgression he vitiated human nature, and transmitted it in this corrupt and guilty state to his descendants by physical generation… Adam’s individual transgression resulted in a sinful nature…”116
The volume “A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages” states, “Original sin, according to Anselm, is the sinfulness, or guiltiness, which each descendent of Adam incurs at his origin. For at his origin he inherits a sinful human nature. That is, when Adam sinned personally his personal sin corrupted his human nature, with the result that the nature inherited by his progeny was also a corrupt nature.”117
Louis Berkhof explains how certain theologians have taught, “Adam suffered the loss of original righteousness, and thereby incurred the divine displeasure. As a result all his descendants are deprived of original righteousness, and as such the objects of divine wrath…”118
S. Michael Houdmann said, “Because of Adam’s and Eve’s disobedience, sin has been an ‘inheritance’ for all their descendants…. When Adam fell into sin, the result was every one of his descendants also being ‘infected’ with sin.”119
John Rodman Williams said, “…we are all heirs of Adam, and thereby inherit his sinful nature. What Adam became through the Fall has been passed down to all his successors.”120
It should bear much weight in our minds that not a single verse in the entire Bible says, “All of mankind inherits a sinful nature from Adam.” That is theory, not fact. Many theologians take for granted the idea that Adam’s nature somehow became sinful when he chose to sin, when even this point is nowhere stated in all of Scripture.
It has already been shown earlier in this volume that Adam did not have the power to change his nature nor the nature of anyone else. And neither could sin itself change human nature. But only God, who is the God of Nature, has the power to create and change human nature, and He certainly would not want to do so since He is good and He created human nature good. This point does not need to be fully readdressed here.
And it has been shown already that God did not create Adam’s nature only and then step back to “let nature take its course.” It has been abundantly shown that God personally and actively forms each individual in the womb. No doubt, God does not form our natures out of nothing or “ex nihilo.” Even Adam was created out of the dirt (Gen. 2:7; 3:19), and Eve was made from his rib (Gen. 2:22). So God uses the DNA from our mother’s eggs and our father’s semen, but He is still the one who forms us in the womb.
The specific question to be dealt with here is whether or not “all” the “successors” or “all” the “descendants” of Adam inherit his sinfulness and damnation, as Augustinian theologians have claimed.
We know with absolute proof from the Scriptures that sin, guilt, and damnation is not heredity, transmitted, or inherited from Adam to all of his posterity because Jesus was a descendant of Adam and He was not born sinful, guilty, or damned. If “all” of Adam’s descendants inherit a sinful nature, or inherit his guilt and damnation, then it stands to reason that Jesus Christ would have been included in the “all” because He too was a descendant of Adam as well. On this point, it must first be shown that Jesus Christ was indeed a descendant of Adam, which is a truth that many theologians overlook, ignore, and dismiss. Consider the following arguments.
First, Jesus Christ was an offspring or descendant of Abraham. The Bible says, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took of him the seed of Abraham” (Heb. 2:16). Since Jesus Christ was of the seed of Abraham, this helps us to understand why God said to Abraham, “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 26:4).
Since Jesus Christ was a child of Abraham, the children of Abraham are called His “brethren.” The Bible says, “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren” (Acts 3:22). “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren” (Heb. 2:14). If Jesus was not a descendant of Abraham, He could not be called the “brethren” of Abraham’s offspring.
Jesus Christ was genuinely an Israelite. He belonged to the tribe of Judah. The Bible says, “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah” (Heb. 7:14). “And one of the elders saith unto me, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Rev. 5:5).
Clearly, Jesus was a descendent of Abraham since He was born of Abraham’s seed, He was a brother to Abraham’s children, and He was a member of the tribe ofJudah.
Second, Jesus Christ was also the offspring or descendant of David. The Bible says, “Hath not the Scripture saith, that Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, were David was? (Jn. 7:42) “Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne” (Acts 2:30). “David, the son of Jesse… Of this man’s seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Savior, Jesus” (Acts 13:22-23). “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3). “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). “Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book” (Rev. 5:5). Jesus testified of his own heredity when he said, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the Churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
When the Bible says, “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mat. 1:1), the Greek word “generation” literally means “source” “origin” lineage” “progeny” and “ancestry.”121 The Scriptures also says, “Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Mat. 1:16). These many passages that teach that Jesus Christ was of the posterity of Abraham and David and the child of Mary have very great theological implications. What can we conclude from these passages but that if Jesus Christ was of the root, offspring, or seed of Mary, Abraham, and David, then He was also of the root, offspring, or seed of Adam, since Mary, Abraham, and David were descendants of Adam? This logical conclusion cannot be avoided granted the premise given to us in Scripture.
- Jesus Christ was a descendant of Mary, David, and Abraham
- Mary, David, and Abraham were descendants of Adam and Eve.
- Therefore, Jesus Christ was a descendant of Adam and Eve
If “Christ” was the “fruit of his loins” in regards to David, then Christ must of necessity been of the fruit of Adam’s loins, since David was of the fruit of Adam’s loins. If Jesus was “of the seed” of David and Abraham, and David and Abraham were the seed of Adam, then Jesus Christ was necessarily of the seed of Adam.
Dr. Zacharius Ursinus, who was a major figure and leader in the Protestant Reformation, even said, “The argument which is drawn from these declarations made in relation to the Messiah, is most convincing; for if the humanity which he assumed was from the seed of Abraham, and of David, then he had a real human nature… Christ took this upon himself, and not a nature created out of nothing, or bought down from heaven… The flesh of Christ is the flesh of Adam…”122
Where did Jesus Christ get his humanity from? Where did the human nature of Christ come from? How did Jesus Christ become part of the human race? It was all through his earthly mother Mary who was a descendant of David, Abraham, and ultimately Adam and Eve. Jesus certainly did not get His human nature from His Heavenly father side of the family. Christ received His human nature from His earthly human mother, receiving His human attributes from her side of the family. Therefore, Jesus actually inherited His human nature from Adam and Eve.
While I was open air preaching on theUniversity ofAlabama inBirmingham, a student said to me, “We are all born sinners.” I said, “No, we are born innocent babies and become sinners by choice. It is your own fault.” He said, “Don’t we descend from Adam?” I said, “Yes, just like Jesus Christ was a descendant of Adam.” He said, “No, He was the son of God.” I said, “He was also the son of man. Wasn’t Jesus the descendant of David?” He said “Yes, through his mother.” I said, “Then through his mother he was also the descendant of Adam. If Jesus was a descendant of David and Abraham, and David and Abraham were descendants of Adam, then Jesus Christ was a descendant of Adam.” He was completely unable to respond to this argument or to refute this logic.
God’s own statements on this topic should forever settle this controversial issue. God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This passage is understood to be prophetic of the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His victory over Satan. John Wesley noted, “A gracious promise is here made of Christ as the deliverer of fallen man from the power of Satan… Notice is here given them… concerning Christ… His incarnation, that he should be the seed of the woman.”123
If Jesus Christ was of the seed of Eve, He was necessarily of the seed of Adam, because Eve could not have any offspring at all independent from Adam. Therefore, no passage could make it any clearer than this one that Jesus Christ was in fact a descendant of Adam and Eve through his human mother Mary.
The ancestors of an individual on their mother side are no less their ancestors than the ancestors they have on their fathers side. The ancestors of an individual on their fathers side are no more their ancestors than the ancestors they have on their mother’s side. The ancestors a person has through their mother and through their father are both equally their ancestors. Therefore, the Adamic lineage or heredity of Jesus Christ is by no means nullified, negated, or excluded by virtue of his virgin birth.
Even through God was the Heavenly Father of Christ, His ancestors through His mother were legitimate ancestors. Otherwise, His ancestry from Abraham and David could also not be spoken of in Scripture. Christ was a descendant of Abraham and David through His mother despite His virgin birth; and likewise, Christ was a descendent of Adam and Eve through His mother despite His virgin birth. If the virgin birth excludes Christ’s lineage or ancestry from Adam, it would also negate his heredity from Abraham and David.
Since Christ is said in the Scriptures to be of “the seed of Abraham” and of “the offspring of David,” all despite his virgin birth, there is no reason to think that Christ is not also the seed or offspring of Adam, despite the virgin birth. His miraculous birth did not somehow make his human ancestry illegitimate. Jesus was both human and divine. He was born of God and born of man. Jesus had both a divine and a human nature. His virgin birth made Him both the son of God and also the son of man.
The term “son of man” is actually a phrase used one hundred and eight times in Old Testament. In Hebrew the phrase is son of “‘âdâm.” It is interesting that the Hebrew word for man is Adam. Therefore, the phrase “son of man” actually means “son of Adam.” That is because in order to be a member of mankind you must be a child of Adam. If a person is a son of man, or a member of mankind, then they necessarily are a child of Adam. If they are not a child of Adam, then they are not a member of mankind or a son of man.
The New Testament applied this Old Testament phrase, “son of man,” to Jesus Christ eighty five times. This phrase is used in all four Gospels and in the Epistles in reference to Christ. Jesus often used this phrase in reference to Himself. What could the Bible mean by the use of this phrase in reference to Christ, but that Jesus was truly a part of mankind because He was truly a son of Adam through his mother? If Jesus was not a son of Adam, then He was not truly a part of mankind. If Jesus did not take upon Himself human nature, then He was not part of the human race. It was absolutely essential for Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, to become a descendant of Adam and to take upon Himself human nature, if He was going to actually be a part of mankind or become a member of the human race.
The descriptions of Jesus’ lineage and genealogy laid in the Scriptures gives us specific insight into the earthly identity of Jesus Christ.
- Being a child of Mary put Jesus Christ into a particular family.
- Being a descendant of David put Jesus Christ into a lineage of kings.
- Being of Judahmade Jesus Christ of a certain tribe ofIsrael
- Being a descendant of Abraham made Jesus Christ a Jew and an Israelite.
- Being a child of Adam made Jesus Christ a human being that was part of the human race.
Some people have rightly recognized that Jesus inherited His human nature through His mother, but they falsely assumed that human nature was sinful. Therefore, they concluded that Jesus Christ inherited a sinful nature through his mother. Abraham Tucker said, “…the sinful nature of Jesus; for that he did partake of a sinful nature by his birth from the woman, I see no reason nor scruple to doubt… He was a descendant of Adam, and when it is declared that in Adam all have sinned, no exception is made of him…”124
Their reasoning on this point is as follows:
- The nature transmitted from Adam to his descendants is a sinful nature.
- Jesus was a descendant of Adam and inherited human nature from His mother.
- Therefore, Jesus inherited a sinful nature.
If you grant their premise it would be impossible to avoid their conclusion. But the fault in their logic is the presupposition that human nature, or the human constitution and composition, is itself sinful. They inevitably come to the wrong conclusion because they start with the wrong premise.
They should have reasoned the following:
- Jesus was a descendant or posterity of Adam and inherited His human nature from him.
- Jesus was not formed or born with a sinful nature.
- Therefore, a sinful nature is not transmitted from Adam to all of his descendants or posterity.
If Jesus Christ was sinless, which He undoubtedly was, then it cannot be affirmed that a sinful nature is transmitted from Adam to all of His descendants. Neither can we say that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all of his descendants as their representative. And we cannot believe that all of Adam’s descendants sinned in him being in his loins. The fact that Jesus Christ was a descendant of Adam, and the fact that Jesus Christ was sinless and guiltless, proves beyond question the fact that men are not sinful or guilty merely for descending from Adam. Sin and guilt are originated by the individual, not inherited from their ancestors.
The reason that the Gnostic’s denied that Jesus Christ had a real flesh is because they viewed the flesh as sinful. But when we understand that flesh is a tool that can be used sinfully or righteously, we would have no problem admitting the Scriptural truth that Jesus had a flesh through His earthly mother. When Augustine converted from Gnosticism, he brought modified Gnostic views into the Church. Now many seem to deny that Jesus Christ had a real human or Adamic nature because they view human nature as sinful. But when we understand that our nature is a tool that we can use for sin or for righteousness, we would have no problem admitting the Scriptural truth that Jesus had a human or Adamic nature through His earthly mother.
Choices Create Habits
Some today may think that they have a sinful nature, or that sin is natural, because they have developed a habit of sinning through their own free will. Choice creates character and character creates habits. Through the continual choice of disobedience men have made sin “natural” or “normal” for them, in the sense that it has become their habit. When men do something so often and regularly, it becomes like “second nature” to them.
This habit of sin, or tendency towards unlawful gratification, is the result of their own will and not the product of the hands of God. Their habit comes, not from their God given constitution or nature, but from their own free will. This “second nature” is the fruit of their own doings and they are therefore entirely responsible for it.
It should also be understood that we have a natural influence towards virtue when our conscience is developed, but before it is developed, we only have a constitutional influence towards self-gratification. In the development of a child, their flesh with its passions and desires is developed long before their mind or conscience is developed. “…. that God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his posterity; but also at his own pleasure arranged it.” – From “Institutes of the Christian Religion” Book III, Chapter 23, Paragraph 7By the time they reach the age of accountability, children have developed a habit of self-indulgence and self-gratification. That is why children choose to continue in this selfish state even after they know better.
The self-centeredness of a child is natural and normal at first, and even necessary for their survival, but it becomes sinful once they know better (Jn. 9:41; Jas 4:17). Their self-centeredness becomes wicked once the value of other people is developed in their minds. Once a person knows that God is supremely valuable and so we ought to love Him supremely, and that our neighbor is equally valuable and so we ought to love them equally, it is sinful, wicked, and rebellious to be self-centered and to live supremely for the gratification of ourselves. Once we know that God should be supremely loved and our neighbor should be loved equally to ourselves, it is sinful if we love ourselves supremely or if we love ourselves above our neighbor.
The Natural Man
Someone might ask, “If men do not have a sinful nature, why does the Bible talk about a sinner being a natural man?” When the Bible talks about “the natural man” (1 Cor. 2:14), the Greek word means a “sensual”125 or carnal man. By definition, a sensual man is someone, “Devoted to the gratification of sense; given to the indulgence of the appetites; lewd; luxurious.”126 A lewd man is someone, “Given to the unlawful indulgence of lust; addicted to fornication or adultery; dissolute; lustful; libidinous.”127 The natural man is someone who chooses to be governed by their passions rather than being governed by their conscience. They are committed to the gratification of their flesh and are living for that end. In the Greek, the natural man refers to, “the sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.”128
When the Bible says that sinners are “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), it is not saying that men are under the wrath of God merely for being born or for possessing the constitution which God formed them with. What a monstrous notion to represent God as having wrath for men merely for being born, especially when He is the one who gave them life. And how awful it is to view men as being under God’s wrath for having the composition which He Himself gave them! This would make the wrath of God unreasonable and unjust.
If a man is “by nature” a child “of wrath” (Eph. 2:3), it could be because he chose to use the faculties of his nature for sin, thus making himself a proper object of the wrath of God. The Greek word “by nature” in this passage can mean “constitution or usage.”129 If this is what the Apostle meant by using that word, he means that men are children of wrath because of the usage they make of their constitution.
Or this particular passage could be talking about those who have developed a habit to live for the gratification of their flesh through continual choice. The phrase “by nature” in the Greek could also mean, “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature…”130 Those who are “children of wrath” in verse three are described as “children of disobedience” in verse two. Disobedience is a choice or state of the will. Therefore, those who are “children of wrath” in context are children of wrath by choice. They are children of wrath through the choice of their will to be disobedient. They choose to be disobedient to God by choosing to live a carnal or sensual life. They are under God’s wrath because they live for the pleasure of their flesh instead of obeying the demands of their conscience.
The context of men being under God’s wrath by nature describes a former manner of life, addressing a previous natural or carnal lifestyle. The context says, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world… among whom also all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Eph. 2:2-3). The terms “walked” and “conversation” indicates a manner of living or a lifestyle. It necessarily involves the choice of man.
The context says that they “were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). This shows how this state was altogether voluntary and caused by their own choice, since sins and trespasses are voluntary choices. Instead of obeying their conscience, living for God, and putting their flesh in its proper place (a spiritual life), they ignore their conscience and live for themselves by making their purpose of life the gratification of their flesh (a carnal life).
This is what is meant by a natural life as opposed to a spiritual life. Living a natural or carnal life is when a person is selfishly living for the gratification of their flesh. It is not that the flesh is itself sinful, but that the choice to live for our flesh is sinful. The natural man is sinful through his own volition. He is a sinner by choice. A sinner chooses to be governed by the desires of his flesh but a saint chooses to be governed by his conscience. The constitution of the natural man and the spiritual man is the same but their choices or character is different.
When a man is truly saved by the power of the gospel, the committal of their will goes from pleasing themselves to pleasing God. True conversion is a turning away from a selfish life to a benevolent life. That is why before conversion occurs there is conviction of sin. This is when the Spirit of God quickens a man’s conscience to condemn his selfishness. The quickening of a man’s conscience (conviction) influences his will to change his moral choices.
The “old man” and “new man” are not descriptions of our constitution but describe our character. The “old man” is a wicked person who chooses to live for himself while the “new man” is a holy person who chooses to live for God (Eph. 4:24). Paul said, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9). “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). We are told to “put on the new man” (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The phrase “put off” and “put on” means that it is our own responsibility and choice.
To say, “We cannot stop sinning,” or to say, “We cannot keep the law of God,” is to say that we have to live after the flesh or to live a selfish life. It is to say that we cannot deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Christ! Yet this is the very beginning of true conversion (Matt. 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23). Until a man ceases his commitment to live after his flesh, he is yet to be converted to Jesus Christ. You cannot be devoted to Christ while being devoted to sin at the same time.
When the Bible says that Christians are “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4), again the word “nature” in the Greek means, “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature.”131 And it could mean, “constitution or usage.”132 In this case, it is not that we had a sinful substance or composition and now we have received a divine substance or composition. But that we begin to use the faculties our constitution the same way that God uses the faculties of His constitution, that is, the usage of our constitution is now for righteousness like His is. And that we now develop holy habits and live a holy life like God does, instead of living a natural or carnal life seeking to gratify our lusts, so that choosing holiness like God does has become our normal mode of acting.
Our constitution is not sinful in and of itself. God is the author of our nature and He does not give us a sinful nature. Our constitution could be used as a tool for righteousness or for unrighteousness. Whether our flesh is an instrument of righteousness or unrighteousness depends upon our own free choice to yield it to the service of the one or the other.
Our flesh doesn’t make us sin. Neither is our flesh itself sinful. Therefore, we do not need a new flesh to be free from sin. We can be sanctified in this life even if we do not have glorified bodies. Jesus Christ was sinless and had the same type of flesh that we have. He too inherited his human nature from Adam through His earthly mother.
God did not design our nature to be used for sin. God designed us for holiness. Therefore, sin is unnatural. If a person uses their nature for wickedness, they are misusing and abusing their God-given nature. Sin is contrary to the proper function of our spirit, soul, and body, and is contrary to the intention of God in creating these elements of our nature.
Mankind has a constitutional influence towards virtue when our conscience is developed. We naturally know good and evil because God has written his laws upon our conscience. Consequently, we naturally feel good when we do what is right and we naturally feel bad when we do what is wrong. Our conscience is bothered and disturbed by sin but it is satisfied and pleased by virtue. This is the way God has designed our constitution or nature to be.
Feeling convicted is an undesirable state. It is a state of misery. Feeling good is a desirable state. It is a state of happiness. Therefore, even though all men have chosen to sin contrary to their nature, we are naturally influenced toward virtue. We have a natural predisposition towards goodness. That is, as far as our conscience and subsequent feellings are concerned. But regarding our flesh, it wants gratification. Our flesh feels good if we gratify it lawfully or unlawfully, but if we gratify it unlawfully we start to feel the pains of conscience. Our flesh inclines us towards gratification, but our conscience inclines us towards virtue. feelings or sensibilities are concerned. Our sensibilities respond to the knowledge of our mind in regards to the moral quality of the choices of our will, which is why we start to feel bad when we recognize that we have chosen what is wrong.
Regarding our flesh, which is part of our nature, it simply wants gratification. We do not have a constitutional tendency towards “sin” per say because of our flesh. Rather, we have a constitutional influence towards gratification. Our flesh doesn’t care if we gratify it lawfully or unlawfully. It just wants gratification.
Our flesh feels good if we gratify it lawfully or unlawfully, but if we gratify it unlawfully we start to feel the pains of conscience. Our flesh inclines us towards gratification, but our conscience or intelligence inclines us towards virtue. Our conscience tells us to gratify our flesh only through lawful means, to put our flesh in its proper place, and to do the revealed will of God in all our moral activities. But neither our conscience nor our flesh necessitates our choices but our will is free to choose between virtue and vice. We are free to choose between living for God supremely and our neighbor equally, in accordance with our conscience, or to live for ourselves supremely by selfishly pursuing the gratification of our flesh.
God designed us and formed us in the womb and He gave us natural desires which are good in themselves. We make the choice to gratify these desires through natural and lawful means or through unnatural and unlawful means. If we choose to gratify our God-given desires unnaturally and unlawfully, this constitutes sin.
It was the God-given desires which Adam, Eve, and Jesus had, which the devil used as the occasion to tempt them. Sin itself does not consist in these involuntary and natural desires, but in the actual committal of the will to gratify these desires unnaturally and unlawfully. Sin and temptation must not be confused. Temptation is not sin, since Jesus was tempted and He was sinless.
Spiritual life, spiritual death, moral character, damnation, and salvation, are not transmitted from parent to child. Our spirits are not inherited or transmitted from our parents but are created by God in the womb. Men become spiritually dead or relationally separated from God when they first choose to sin. Moral character consists of voluntary attributes which are chosen by a person’s will. Men are sinners by free choice, not by the necessity of their nature. Damnation is personally deserved because of personal sin. No man is accountable for the sins of another. And salvation requires the personal choice to repent and believe. These things do not depend upon ancestry or heredity but depend upon the choices of an individual’s free will.
It makes sense that if God did not design our nature to be used for sin, and if He gives us the constitutional influence to obey Him, that He would also give us the natural ability to avoid sin and choose holiness. Since God wants us to obey His will, He has given us the natural influence and the natural ability to do His will. Our Creator designed us for holiness and He has given us everything necessary for living that type of life.
PROOF TEXTS EXPLAINED
The following is an explanation of the passages commonly used in support of the “born a sinner” or “born sinful” doctrine.
I. “… visiting the iniquities of the Fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me…” (Exo. 20:5)
- It is strange that this verse would ever be used to suppose the Augustinian doctrine of original sin. If this verse was saying that sin and guilt was hereditary, it would be saying that only the third and fourth generation inherits it. Augustine’s doctrine says that all the children of Adam of all generations inherit his sin and guilt. Therefore, if this verse was saying that sin and guilt was hereditary, it would actually be a refutation of the Augustinian doctrine of original sin.
- To “the third and fourth generation” means that the actions of a parent have an influence or effect upon his children, but he does not influence or effect all of his generations. One of the greatest influences or teachers is example. An example influences those who observe it. One of the great influences upon a child is the example of a parent. When a child see’s their father sinning (first generation), or their grandfather sinning (second generation), or their great grandfather sinning (third generation), this has an influence upon their own moral character.
- We see that a child can imitate the moral character of their parent by the story of Amon who “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did…” (2 Kings 21:20) Other examples show us children imitating the moral character of their parents as well. “Nadab…. Did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father…” (1 Kings 15:25-26) “Ahaziah…. did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother…” (1 Kings 22:51-52) “Amon…. Did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did. And walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them…” (2 Kings 21:19-21) “Jehoshaphat…. walked in the way of Asa his father, and departed not from it, doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 20:31-32). The second of the Ten Commandments, which says iniquity is visited to the third and fourth generation, is the commandment that forbids idolatry. It forbids bowing down to idols. If a child observes their parent in the worship of an idol, their parent’s example could influence them to do likewise. If they bow down in imitation, they partake of their parent’s sin.
- All throughout the Bible we see how one person’s example could lead others into sin (1 Kng. 14:16; 15:26, 30, 34; 16:13, 26; 21:22; 22:52; 2 Kng. 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 21:11, 16; 23:15, Neh. 13:26, Jer. 32:35, Isa. 3:12, Matt. 18:6; Mk. 9:42; Lk. 17:2, 1 Cor. 8:9, Heb. 4:11). “But whosoever shall offend [cause to sin] one of these little ones…” (Matt. 18:6). “But take heed lest by any means, this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Cor. 8:9). “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Heb. 4:11).
- The phrase “of them that hate me” is a very important qualification. Children do not share in their father’s sin and guilt by inheritance or imputation but by imitation. If the children do not grow up to hate the Lord and bow down to idols as their fathers did, then the iniquity of their fathers is not being visited upon them. If a child does not walk in the sins of their father, they do not share in the guilt of their fathers. God explicitly clarified this when He said, “What mean ye, that ye use this proverb concerning the landof Israel, saying, the fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right…. Neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel… he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God… Now lo, if he begets 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 of his father, he shall surely live… Yet say ye, Why? Doeth not the son bear the iniquity of the fathers? When the son hath done that which is lawful and right, and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live. The soul that sinneth, it shall die. 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” (Eze. 18:2-6, 9, 19-20).
- When the Pharisees were seeking to kill Jesus and they admitted that their fathers had killed the prophets, Jesus said to them, “Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers” (Matt. 23:32). They were sharing in the guilt of their fathers by sharing in the sin of their fathers. They were guilty of rejecting and murdering those whom God sent to them just as their fathers were. Children share in the guilt of their fathers by sharing in the sins of their fathers. But if a child does not share in their sin, they will not share in their guilt. No man can possibly be guilty of a sin that he didn’t commit. Under the moral government of God, everyone is accountable for their own deeds (Jer. 17:10; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; 11:15; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:11-12; Rev. 22:12).
II. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Ps. 51:5
- This Scripture is talking about David and his mother. It is not referencing all of humanity and it says nothing about Adam.
2. The sin mentioned is not the sin of Adam, but the sin of David’s mother.
3. There is a world of difference between being born in sin and having sin born in you, just as there is a world of difference between being born in America and having America born in you. David was formed in sin, but sin was not formed in him.
4. The event spoke of is the conception of David, not the birth of David. He is not saying that he was born a sinner. David is saying that his mother was in sin when she got pregnant. She was sinning when she conceived him. The conception is the beginning of the pregnancy. The birth is the end of the pregnancy. This passage is talking about the beginning of the pregnancy or the conception.
5. A strong case can be made that this is talking about the defilement of David’s mother because she was previously the wife of, or the concubine of, a heathen king.
a. David had two half-sisters named Zeruiah and Abigail (1 Chron. 2:13-16).
b. The father of David’s half sisters was not Jesse but Nahash (2 Sam. 17:25).
c. Nahash was an Ammonite king (1 Sam. 11:1; 1 Sam. 12:12).
d. David’s father was Jesse, not Nahash, but David’s half sisters were daughters of Nahash. This could explain why Nahash showed kindness toward David (2 Sam. 10:2).
e. David’s mother was most likely the second wife of Jesse. The first wife of Jesse would have been considered superior to his second wife, which had been either the concubine or wife of a heathen king.
f. This would explain why David’s half brothers viewed themselves as superior to David, and why David was considered prideful for thinking he was as good as them (1 Sam. 17:28-30).
g. This may explain why David was not called before Samuel the prophet amongst the other sons, as he was viewed as the embarrassment of the family and possibly was an illegitimate child (1 Sam. 16:11).
h. David’s mother apparently had a good relationship with the Lord (Ps. 86:16; 116:16). But she would have been, in the eyes of Jewish law, considered defiled by her previous relationship with an Ammonite (Num. 25:1,2; Deut. 7:3,4; 1 Kings 11:2-4, Ezra 9:2; Neh. 13:23,25; 2 Cor. 6:14-17).
i. It may simply be that David’s mother was not married to Jesse when she became pregnant, or that she was still the concubine of, or married to, Nahash the heathen king when she conceived. This is a possibility.
6. The context of David’s prayer of repentance is not consistent with David making an excuse for his adultery by saying, “I was born a sinner. It’s not my fault. I was born this way.” In true repentance, an individual takes full responsible for their sin and offers no excuses for justification. David was not blaming his sin on his birth. David was simply stating that even the circumstances of his birth were surrounded by sexual sin.
7. When a sinner repents of his sins, it is not uncommon for them to reflect upon the stronghold that those sins have had throughout their family. A drunkard might reflect upon the drunkenness of his father when he repents of his own drunkenness. They might think to themselves, “I am a drunkard. My father was a drunkard. I come from a whole family of drunkards.” In this case, it appears that David reflects upon the sexual immorality of his mother while he is repenting of his own sexual immorality.
8. David said that he was “wonderfully” and “marvelously” made by God in the womb (Ps. 139:13-14). Therefore, he could not have been sinfully made by his mother in the womb. It is not wonderful to be born sinful or marvelous to be created evil. Lest we view David as contradicting himself, or charge the Bible with inconsistency, we cannot interpret Ps. 51:5 to say that David was formed with a sinful nature in the womb or that he was born a sinner. David said that his mother conceived him through sin, but God created him wonderfully and marvelously. There is no inconsistency or contradiction in that.
III. “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” Ps. 58:3
1. Psalms is a highly poetic book. Its verses can be taken figuratively or literally depending on the context in which they exist.
2. The context of this passage requires a figurative interpretation as the entire chapter is figurative. All of the surrounding verses are highly poetic.
3. This psalm talks of men being like serpents and deaf adders (vs. 4), of God breaking the teeth of the young lions (vs. 6), of men melting away like running water (vs.7), of God bending his bow to shoot arrows (vs. 7), of men passing away as a snail which melts (vs. 8), and of God destroying like a whirlwind (vs. 9).
4. It says that children speak lies from the womb. Infants do not know how to speak as soon as they are born. Therefore, this passage is poetic and not realistic. It is figurative, not literal.
5. The meaning of this passage seems to be that individuals choose to sin at a very early age, from the dawn of their moral agency, and the first sin which children usually commit is that of lying.
IV. “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19
1. If we are going to apply the first section of the passage unconditionally and universally, we must also apply the second section of the passage unconditionally and universally, since the language for both is the same.
a. If the first section means mankind is universally and unconditionally condemned in Adam then the second section would mean that mankind is universally and unconditionally justified through Jesus.
b. . This verse cannot mean that all men have the imputed sinfulness of Adam because then it would be saying that all men have the imputed righteousness of Christ.
c. Nor can this verse be saying that all men inherit a sinful nature from Adam because then it would be saying that all men inherit a righteous nature from Christ.
2. Paul does not explain how Adam is the occasion of our sin, but simply states that he is. He doesn’t explain “why” or “how” but only “that.” He gives a fact, not an explanation. Many try to add their own explanation by interposing their personal theories of “federal headship,” “imputation,” “seminal identity,” or “sinful nature,” when Paul does not explicitly teach any of these theories.
3. The Calvinistic interpretation of this passage, that all the children of Adam are automatically and unconditionally damned under the wrath of God for the sin of their father, which occurred without their knowledge and without their consent, because Adam was their representative (Federal Headship), is a view which is contrary to the explicit justice of God (Deut. 24:16,2 Kng. 14:6, 2 Chron. 25:4, Jer. 31:29-30, Eze. 18:2-4, Eze. 18:19-20). To represent God as imputing guilt to the innocent is to represent God as arbitrary and unjust.
4. The Augustinian view, that Adam’s sin is rightly ours because we were in his loins (Seminal Identity), would logically make us guilty, not only of Adam’s sin, but of all the sins of all our ancestors. It would mean that we were participants in the repentance, conversion, and salvation of any of our ancestors, since we would have existed in their loins as well. We would be punishable, not only for existing in Adam’s loins as his semen during his disobedience, but also praiseworthy for existing in Noah’s loins as his semen during his obedience.
5. If either the doctrine of Federal Headship or the doctrine of Seminal Identity were true, God’s declaration would be not only meaningless but false when He said, “the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father” (Eze. 18:20). Any interpretation of any passage, which makes the Bible contradict itself, cannot possibly be a true interpretation because it violates the law of non-contradiction.
6. The context of Paul’s statement shows us that He does not mean that we are damned for Adam’s personal sin, and it shows us that He does not mean that we are not damned for our own personal sin.
a. Paul said, “…death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The reason that Paul assigned for their death was because they personally sinned.
b. This must be talking about spiritual death since infants at times physically die and they haven’t yet had the chance to sin.
c. Paul went on to say, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression” (Rom. 5:14). In the time between “Adam to Moses,” there were no Ten Commandments, and therefore there could be no “transgression.” Paul said “for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15).
d. Nevertheless, those in that time were sinning against their own conscience and the light of nature, as Paul said, “For until the law sin was in the world” (Rom. 5:13). There was sin in the world even before the law came through Moses, but there was no transgression before the law because men sinned against their own conscience and did not transgress any commandments.
e. Therefore, they did not sin “after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” or in the same way and manner that Adam did, since Adam violated a direct commandment.
f. Paul made a very clear distinction between their sin and Adam’s sin. He said “all have sinned” even though it was not similar or like “Adam’s transgression.”
g. If Paul meant to argue that all men sinned in Adam and are consequently damned for the sin of Adam, he would not have said that the reason all die is because all have personally sinned, even though their personal sin is different and distinct from the sin of Adam. If we sinned in Adam, then His sin is not distinct or different from our own. If we sinned in Adam, then we did sin after the similitude of Adam’s transgression. If Paul meant to say that we sinned in Adam, Paul would have been arguing for the opposite of what he intended to prove by making a distinction between our sin and Adam’s sin.
7. When Paul said by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, he was saying that Adam is the occasion, not cause, of our choice to be sinners. Adam’s disobedience contributed to our choice to be sinners.
a. Paul does not specifically explain how Adam contributed to our choice to sin, but it could be that by Adam’s disobedience of eating from the tree, Adam provided all mankind with the opportunity of choosing to be sinners, since moral knowledge has been granted to all men.
b. A sinner is an individual who voluntarily chooses contrary to their moral knowledge. To say “many were made sinners” means that many have chosen to sin, since a sinner is someone who first chooses to sin. It means men have chosen to do what they knew to be wrong.
c. The result of one man’s disobedience of eating from the tree of knowledge was that many were made sinners in that men have chosen to be sinners or have chosen to do what they knew was wrong. “And the Lord God said, behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22). “Jesus said unto them, if ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, we see; therefore your sin remaineth” (John 9:41). “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (Jas. 4:17).
d. Adam provided the opportunity for our damnation by opening the eyes of mankind, but our damnation requires our own choice to do what we know to be wrong.
8. When Paul said that through Christ many are made righteous, that does not mean that all men are unconditionally made right with God, but that Christ has given us the occasion of salvation and many are made righteous through that occasion.
a. By Christ’s obedience of hanging on the tree, Christ has provided all mankind with the opportunity of choosing to be saved. This is because the remission of sin has been offered to all men upon condition of their repentance and faith, and because it is the knowledge of the gospel which draws us and influences us to repentance. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). “…the gospel of Christ… it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). “…without shedding of blood is no remission” (Heb. 9:22).
b. Christ provided the opportunity and influence for our salvation, but our salvation still requires our own choice. Just as damnation has not unconditionally come upon all but depends upon our choice to sin, so also salvation has not unconditionally come upon all but depends upon our choice to be converted.
9. The parallelism and contrast expressed by Paul, in this case, would be clear. Adam’s disobedience consisted in eating from the tree. Christ’s obedience consisted in hanging on the tree. Adam’s disobedience resulted in the knowledge of good and evil, which gives us the opportunity to be sinners. Christ’s obedience resulted in the knowledge of the gospel, which gives us the opportunity to be made righteous. Condemnation comes upon those who choose to disobey the knowledge of good and evil. Justification comes upon those who choose to obey the knowledge of the gospel.
10. This passage is not teaching that we contributed to Adam’s sin or participated in it, but that Adam contributed to our sin. It is not that our actions resulted in Adam becoming a sinner but that Adam’s actions resulted in us becoming sinners. That is, the result of his disobedience of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is that we too have now chosen to sin.
11. The word “made” used in these passages is not referring to a constitutional change, but referring to a conditional position which requires the consent of the will. Being a sinner is conditional upon choosing to sin. Likewise, being justified is conditional upon choosing to repent and believe. No man is damned without first his choice to sin and no man is justified without first his choice to repent. Man’s damnation and man’s justification both require man’s free will choice.
12. The idea that moral character can exist without the choice of the will is an absurdity and presupposes a Gnostic moral philosophy. Any interpretation that makes a man sinful or a sinner independent of his choice must be false and unscriptural, as the Bible has repeatedly condemned and contradicted Gnostic moral philosophy. Moral character and consequently moral depravity is always voluntary. To be made a “sinner” can mean nothing more than becoming a person who chooses to sin, to become a person who freely chooses to do what is known to be wrong. Otherwise the word “sinner” is void of all real meaning and would fail to actually describe a moral state or express any moral quality.
V. “…by nature children of wrath” Ephesians 2:3
1. The word nature can at times describe a man’s God given constitution (Rom 1:26; 1:31; 2:14; 2:27; 2 Tim 3:3). It must be kept in mind that our constitution is just dirt and is created by God; and therefore, our constitution cannot be sinful in and of itself.
2. The phrase “by nature” does not always mean “by birth” but can at times mean “by custom or habit.” Otherwise, Paul would have taught that the Gentiles were born sinners but the Jews were not. Paul said, “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles” (Gal. 2:15). The word nature can describe a man’s self chosen character, custom, habit, or manner of life (Jer. 13:23; Acts 26:4; 1 Cor 2:14; Eph 2:2-3; Gal 2:14-15; 2 Tim 3:10; 2 Pet 1:4). This is voluntary and has to do with the heart. Therefore, moral character or sinfulness can belong to this type of voluntary and chosen nature.
3. The context of this particular passage is talking about a former manner of life. Paul is addressing a previous lifestyle. He said, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world… among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2:2-3). The “natural man” is the same as the “carnally minded.” It is someone who lives for the gratification of their flesh. To say that a person is by nature a child of wrath is the same as saying that they are under the wrath of God because they are living for the gratification of their flesh. Through free choice, men create a habit of self-indulgence.
4. To say that they are “children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2, 5:6), and to say they are “by nature children of wrath,” is essentially to say the same thing. Disobedience is a choice of the will. Those who choose to disobey God are misusing and abusing their natures. Those who choose to disobey God are rightfully under His wrath.
5. That which brings the “wrath” of God is voluntary moral character, not involuntary constitutions. God is not angry with men for possessing the nature which He Himself created them with. God is angry with sinners because of how they have chosen to use the nature that He has given them. God is angry with sinners because of their sinful choices and sinful habits.
6. A sinful nature is moral not physical. It is a person’s self chosen character and not his God given constitution. A man’s heart or will can be sinful, but a man’s constitution or body can only be an occasion of temptation. Though continual choices of self-gratification, man has developed a habit of sin.
VI. The Bible explicitly contradicts the doctrine that all men are incapable, sinful, guilty, spiritually dead, and damned because of the original sin of Adam.
- Children do not inherit the sin or guilt of their parents (Deut. 24:16,2 Kng. 14:6, 2 Chron. 25:4, Jer. 31:29-30, Eze. 18:2-4, Eze. 18:19-20).
- Each moral agent is accountable for their own deeds and for their deeds only (Deut. 24:16, 2 Kng. 14:6, 2 Chron. 25:4, Eze. 18:2-4, Eze. 18:19-20, Jer. 17:10; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:5-6; 14:12; 2 Cor. 5:10; 11:15; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:11-12; Rev. 22:12).
- Moral responsibility is limited and proportionate to moral ability (Deut. 6:5, Deut. 10:12, Deut. 30:6, Matt. 22:37, Mk. 12:30, Lk. 10:27, 1 Cor. 10:13).
- Moral accountability is limited and proportionate to moral knowledge (Matt. 11:21-22, Lk. 12:47-48, Lk. 23:34, Jn. 9:41, Jn. 15:22, Rom. 4:15, Rom. 5:13, Jas. 4:17, Jn. 19:11, Matt. 23:14, Mk.12:40, Lk. 20:47, Jas. 3:1, Matt. 10:15, Matt. 11:24, Mk. 6:11, Lk. 10:12, Lk. 10:14, Heb. 10:26, 2 Pet. 2:21).
- Infant children are born morally innocent (2 Kng. 21:16; 24:4; Jer. 13:26-27; Ps. 106:37-38; Matt. 18:3) They have not yet “done anything” morally “good or evil” (Rom. 9:11), until the age of accountability, which is the age of reason, when they know right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16), and choose to do wrong (Jas. 4:17). Those who don’t know right from wrong cannot be sinful (Jn. 9:41), and infants do not yet know right from wrong (Deut. 1:39; Isa. 7:15-16). Therefore, infants cannot be sinful.
- All men have chosen to be sinners from their “youth,” which is when they reach the age of accountability (Gen. 8:21; Jer. 22:21; 32:30).
- All men have been sinners by choice (Gen. 6:12, Ex. 32:7, Deut. 9:12, Deut. 32:5, Jdg. 2:19, Hos. 9:9, Ps. 14:2-3, Isa. 53:6, Ecc. 7:29, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 5:12).
- Each individual originates their sin out of their own heart (Ps. 7:14; 58:3; Matt. 12:35, Lk. 6:45, Acts 5:4).
- God is the author of our nature. He forms all of us in the womb (Gen. 4:1; Ex. 4:11; Deut. 32:18; Isa. 27:11; 43:1; 43:7; 44:2; 44:24; 49:5; 64:8; Jer. 1:5; Ps. 26:10; 95:6; 127:3; 139:13-14, 16; Ecc. 7:29; 31:15; 35:10; Mal. 2:10; Rom. 9:20; Eph. 3:9; 4:6; Col. 1:16; Jn. 1:3).
- Our spirits are not inherited from our parents but God is the creator of our spirits (Num. 16:22; 27:16; Zac. 12:1; Ecc. 11:5; Eze. 18:4; 1 Cor. 6:20; Heb. 12:9).
- Men are not born dead in sins but become morally depraved and relationally separated from God when they personally become sinful or personally choose to sin (Eze. 18:4, 20; Isa. 59:2, Lk. 15:24; Rom. 5:12; 5:14; 7:9; 7:11; 8:6; 2 Cor. 5:14; Col. 1:21; 2:13; Rev. 3:1).
- God forms us in His image, so even after the fall of Adam man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; Jas 3:9).
- Even after the fall of Adam, mankind continued to have the power of free choice (Gen. 4:6-7; Deut. 30:11, 19; Josh. 24:15; Isa. 1:16-20; 55:6-7; Jer. 4:14; Hos. 10:12; Jer. 18:11; 21:8; 26:13; Eze. 18:30-32; 20:7-8; Acts 2:40; 17:30; Rom. 6:17; 2 Cor. 7:1; 2 Tim. 2:21; Jas. 4:7-10; 1 Pet. 1:22; Rev. 22:17). God calls all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30-31), and He rightly blames them if they do not repent (Matt. 11:20; 23:37; Mk. 6:6; Lk. 7:30; 13:34; 14:17-18; 19:14; 19:27; Jn. 5:40; Rev. 2:21).
Does Man Inherit A Sinful Nature?
- Harry Conn (The Incipiency of the Will vs. Determinism)
- Jed Smock (Debate on Total Depravity, Jed Smock vs. Peter Allison, produced by Destiny Ministries).
- Jed Smock (The Campus Ministry USAEmail Newsletter, Plowing Through, Published Dec. 17th, 2009)
- Irenaeus (Against Heresies, Book IV, Chapter XXXVII)
- Augustine (Did God Know by H. Roy Elseth, pg 41, Published byCalvaryUnitedChurch)
- Martin Luther (The Bondage of the Will, Sovereign Grace Publishers, p. 88)
- Alfred T. Overstreet (Over One Hundred Texts From The Bible That Show That Babies Are Not Born Sinners, p. 8).
- Alfred T. Overstreet (Over One Hundred Texts From The Bible That Show That Babies Are Not Born Sinners, p. 6-7).
- Winkie Pratney (Youth Aflame, Bethany House, p. 78).
- Jed Smock (Brother Jed at OU, Part 2, YouTube video)
- Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, Published by BRCCD, p. 348)
- Gordon C. Olson (The Truth Shall Set You Free, Published by BRCCD, p. 141).
- Charles Finney (Finney’s Systematic Theology, 1878 Edition, Published by Bethany House Fellowship, p. 149)
- Gordon C. Olson (The Essentials of Salvation, Published by BRCCD, p. 41)
- Thomas Chalmers (The Bridgewater Treatises, On the Power Wisdom and Goodness of God as Manifest in the Adaption of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man, 1853 Edition, p. 251)
- Gregory of Nyssa (Views in Theology, Published by Truman and Smith, 1836 Edition, p. 55)
- Theodore of Mopsuestia (The Quarterly Christian Spectator, Volume Seven, Published by S. Cooke, 1825 Edition, p. 270)
- Ignatius (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians chap 5, Long Version)
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- Gordon C. Olson (The Entrance of Sin into the World, p. 31, 38).
- Dr. Emmons (Sermon on Original Sin)
- Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 64-65)
- Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 85).
- Clement ofAlexandria(A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 287, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)
- F. Lagard Smith (Troubling Questions for Calvinists, page 134-135).
- F. Lagard Smith (Troubling Questions for Calvinists, page 134-135).
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- Tertullian (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 285, Published by Hendrickson Publishers).
- Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 141-142)
- Michael Pearl (To Train Up A Child, No Greater Joy, p. 15-20)
- Rev. E. W. Cook (The Origin of Sin, Published by Men for Missions, p. 2)
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- ParisReidhead (Finding the Reality of God, p. 85)
- Dr Wiggers (Historical Presentation of Augustinianism and Pelagianism, Published by BRCCD, p. 110)
- Dr Wiggers (Historical Presentation of Augustinianism and Pelagianism, Published by BRCCD, p. 110)
- Dr Wiggers (Historical Presentation of Augustinianism and Pelagianism, Published by BRCCD, p. 110)
- (Julian of Eclanum, Letter to Rome, Edited by Rev. Daniel R. Jennings, p. 2)
- Dennis Carroll (Video Interview for the film Beyond Augustine, produced by Inlight Productions)
- Julian of Eclanum (Letter toRome)
- Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, Published by BRCCD, p. 348).
- Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, Published by BRCCD, p. 191).
- Paris Reidhead (Finding the Reality of God, pg 141-142)
- Augustine (Aug. De Litera Spiritu, cap. 34.)
- Augustine (An Historical Presentation of Augustinism And Pelagianism by G. F. Wiggers, p. 128-129)
- Winkie Pratney (Youth Aflame, Bethany House, p. 83).4
- Julian Of Eclanum (Letter To Rufus Of Thessalonica)
- Julian Of Eclanum (Letter To Rufus Of Thessalonica)
- Alfred T. Overstreet (Are Men Born Sinners? Evangel Books Publishing Company, p.17).
- Strong’s Definition
- John Calvin (Essay’s, Lectures, Etc, Upon Select Topics in Revealed Theology, Published by Clark, Austin & Smith, 1859 Edition, p. 172)
- John Calvin (Essay’s, Lectures, Etc, Upon Select Topics in Revealed Theology, Published by Clark, Austin & Smith, 1859 Edition, p. 172)
- John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by John Allen, Published by Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1844 Edition, p. 229).
- Strong’s Definitions,
- Brown Driver Briggs Definitions
- John Wesley (The works of the Reverend John Wesley, A. M., Published by B. Waugh and T. Mason, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1835 Edition, p. 56)
- A. W. Tozer (The Quotable Tozer)
- Augustine (De vera relig., xiv, 27)
- Irenaeus (c.180, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 271, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)
- Gordon C. Olson (The Foreknowledge of God, pg 25)
- Dr Wiggers (Historical Presentation of Augustinianism and Pelagianism, pg 399-400)
- Charles Finney (Sermons on Gospel Themes, p. 78-79, Published by Truth in Heart)
- Pelagius (Pelagius’ Commentary on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Published by Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 98-99)
- A. W. Tozer. (Who Put Jesus on the Cross, Published by Christian Publications Inc, p. 110-111)
- John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume One, Published by Calvin Translation Society, 1845 Edition, p. 288)
- Dean Harvey (The Doctrine of Original Sin by Dean Harvey; Published by Evangelical Education Ministries)
- Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, Published by BRCCD, p. 340)
- Harry Conn (Sin & Holiness by Gordon C. Olson, Forward by Harry Conn, Published by Men for Missions)
- Charles Finney (Finney’s Systematic Theology, Bethany House, p. 261).
- Early Church writer (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, p. 168, Published by The Boydell Press).
- Early Church writer (The Letters of Pelagius and his Followers by B. R. Rees, pg 168-169, Published by The Boydell Press)
- Winkie Pratney (Youth Aflame, Published by Bethany House, p. 78).
- Julian of Eclanum (Letter To Rufus Of Thessalonica)
- Julian of Eclanum (Letter To Rufus Of Thessalonica)
- Asa Mahan (Doctrine of the Will, Published by Truth in Heart, p. 115)
- John Calvin (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume One, Published by Calvin Translation Society, 1845 Edition, p. 288)
- Martin Luther (The Bondage of the Will, Sovereign Grace Publishers, p. 97)
- Origen (The Quarterly Christian Spectator, Volume Seven, Published by S. Cooke, 1825 Edition, p. 270)
- Eusebius (The Christian Examiner, Volume One, Published by James Miller, 1824 Edition, p. 66)
- Methodius (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume Six, Published by BRCCD, p. 696)
- Methodius (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume Six, Published by BRCCD, p 698).
- Methodius (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume Six, Published by BRCCD, p. 747)
- Methodius (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume Six, Published by BRCCD, p. 750)
- Cornelius Van Til (The Defense of the Faith, Published by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, p. 167)
- Charles Finney (Lectures on Systematic Theology, 1851 Edition, Published by BRCCD, p. 338)
- Pelagius (On Nature and Grace by Augustine)
- Winkie Pratney (The Nature and Character of God, Published by Bethany House Publishers, p. 82)
- Tertullian (Doctrine of the Will by Asa Mahan, p. 61, Published by Truth in Heart)
- Justin Martyr (First Apology Chap. 43)
- Origen (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 289, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)
- Irenaeus (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 287, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)
- Alfred T. Overstreet (Are Men Born Sinners, Published by Evangel Books Publishing Company, p. 20).
- (Council of Trent Denzinger Enchiridion Symbulorum, definitionum et declarationum , Freiburg, 1957, document 833; “she was free from any personal or hereditary sin”, Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, 1943 in Dentzinger, D2291).
- Jed Smock (Article called Moral Character on Library of Theology.com)
- John Calvin (Secret Providence, p. 267)
- A. W. Tozer (Paths To Power, Christian Publications,Camp Hill,Pennsylvania)
- Theodore W. Elliot (Born Sinful? p. 16)
- Albert Barnes (The Way of Salvation: A Sermon, Delivered at Morristown, New Jersey, Together with Mr. Barnes Defense of the Sermon , Read Before the Synod of Philadelphia, and his Defense before the second Presbytery of Philadelphia, 1836 Edition, p. 220)
- Leonard Ravenhill (Revival Study Bible, Published by Armour Publishing Pte Ltd, p. 1562)
- Lord Coke (Coke upon Littleton, Vol. III, p. 368)
- L. D. McCabe (Divine Nescience of Future Contingencies a Necessity, Chapter: Harmonizing of the Calvinian andArminianSchoolsof Theology)
- John Fletcher (Checks to Antinomianism by John Fletcher, Volume One, p. 130, 147, Published by Carlton & Porter)
- Barnabas (Letter of Barnabas, chap 21)
- Hermas (Shepherds bk. 2, comm.. 7; bk 3, sim. 10, chap. 2.)
- Origen (First Things bk. 3, chap. 1)
- Titian (A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David Bercot, p. 286, Published by Hendrickson Publishers)
- Prosper (An Equal Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism by John Fletcher, Volume Two, p. 205, Published by Carlton & Porter)
- Irenaeus (An Equal Check to Pharisaism and Antinomianism by John Fletcher, Volume Two, p. 200-201, Published by Carlton & Porter)
- 2 Baruch 54:15-19
- Albert Barnes (The Way of Salvation: A Sermon, Delivered at Morristown, New Jersey, Together with Mr. Barnes Defense of the Sermon , Read Before the Synod of Philadelphia, and his Defense before the second Presbytery of Philadelphia, 1836 Edition, p. 28)
- Albert Barnes (The Way of Salvation: A Sermon, Delivered at Morristown, New Jersey, Together with Mr. Barnes Defense of the Sermon , Read Before the Synod of Philadelphia, and his Defense before the second Presbytery of Philadelphia, 1836 Edition, p. 254-255)
- WestminsterShorter Catechism, Q/A 16
- The Catechism of Trent (Catechism of the Council of Trent: published by command of Pope Pius the fifth, Translated by Jeremiah Donovan, Published by F. Lucas, p. 32)
- Thomas Aquinas (Compendium of Theology by Thomas Aquinas, translated by Richard J. Regan, Published by Oxford University Press, p. 149)
- Wayne Grudem (Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith, Published by Zondervan, p. 214)
- Lewis Chafer (Systematic Theology, Published by Kregel Publications, p. 311)
- (A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, Edited by Jorge J. E. Gracia and Timothy B. Noone, Published by Wiley-Blackwell, p. 143)
- Louis Berkhof (Systematic Theology, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, p. 238)
- S. Michael Houdmann (Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered, Published by WinePress Publishing, p. 378)
- John Rodman Williams (Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Published by Zondervan, p. 270)
- Thayer’s Definitions
- Dr. Zacharius Ursinus (The Commentary of Dr. Zacharias Ursinus on the Heidelberg Catechism, translated by George Washington Williard, Published by Elm Street Printing Co, 1888 Edition, p. 209)
- John Wesley (Commentary on Gen. 3:15)
- Abraham Tucker (The Light of Nature Pursued, Volume Four, Published by Hilliard and Brown, 1831 Edition, p. 109)
- Strong’s Definitions
- Noah Webster’s Dictionary of American English
- Noah Webster’s Dictionary of American English
- Thayer’s Definitions
- Strong’s Definitions
- Thayer’s Definitions
- Thayer’s Definitions
- Strong’s Definitions
BOOKS BY JESSE MORRELL
Does Man Inherit A Sinful Nature by Jesse Morrell is a thorough examination and refutation to one of the oldest theological excuses for sin – a sinful nature. With an abundance of scripture, keen logic, and an appeal to Christian teachers throughout history, this book not only shows that men are not born with a sinful nature but that sin is actually contrary to the nature God gave us.
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If we are born in such a way and in such a state that we cannot help but to sin and be sinful, the devil is out of a job. He only needed to tempt Adam, but he does not need to tempt us if we inherit from Adam a nature, which does not have the ability to avoid sinning but which makes sin unavoidable. He does not need to tempt us to sin if sin is already unavoidable, inevitable, or a necessity of our nature. The fact that the devil still goes around tempting men to sin takes for granted that men have a free will to sin or not to sin and are not forced to sin by any necessity of their nature.
jesse, i really appreciate you providing these excerpts from your book for us!
Thank you so much for posting this! I am now convinced that original sin leading to babies born guilty through Adam are false doctrines. Have you ever thought about condensing main parts of this into a tract for mass distribution? It may be helpful.
You are assuming there is a devil. Sin is an inevitability of human nature whether we inherit it or not. We inherited the ability to sin, and therefore also the propensity to sin. All humans sin, the question is a bit moot. In Romans 7, enlightened (by law) Paul, denies his responsibility for sin on the basis of the reality that his will to perform morally is useless, and that it is in his flesh that the problem lies. We are born into a world of sin, it is unrealistic to expect us not to be contaminated from external sources, and equally as unrealistic not to expect sin from a creature born with the capacity to explore both his inward (as did Adam) and outward environment.