DOES MAN INHERIT A SINFUL NATURE?
A Scriptural Discourse on the Human Constitution
By Jesse Morrell
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The question, “Does man inherit a sinful nature?” is a question that has been discussed throughout Christian history. In our day, this question is very important and relevant. We live in a society that primarily does not take personal responsibility for moral actions. Criminals are victimized and excused through philosophies of circumstantial, mental, and genetic determinism. Sinful musicians sing songs justifying their sin by saying, “I was born this way.”
The sin excusing philosophy of the world is nearly identical to the sin excusing theology of the church. As I travel the country preaching in the open air, calling sinners to repentance, both professing Christians and unbelievers declare together in perfect harmony, “I can’t help it. It’s my nature. I was born this way.” If sin is ever justifiable or excusable, the entire system of the gospel is destroyed and an understanding of salvation is entirely distorted. Augustinian theology has taught the church that sin is unavoidable and inevitable, being a necessity of the nature that we are born with. The result is a victimized mentality that excuses wicked behavior, relieves the mind from the weight of guilt, and makes impossible the conviction of personal responsibility that justifies accountability and shows the need for pardon through Christ.
Natural inability to obey God, rooted in the notion of an inherited sinful nature, is the most common excuse for sin. More times than I can count have I heard sinners declare, “Sin is my human nature.” Instead of taking full responsibility and blaming themselves by saying, “Sin is my free 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 design and constitution.
If the Christian church is going to see genuine converts, who repent of all their sin and turn to Christ for salvation, the excuses of unbelievers must be overcome. We cannot have genuine revival otherwise. There can be no genuine conversion without genuine conviction. Conviction is a legal term, when all the evidence in the court of law results in the verdict of guilty. Conviction in the legal sense is when the mind of a sinner is convinced of their guilt and deservingness of punishment. There can be no genuine conviction if the mind holds on to an excuse that removes personal responsibility. As long as men try to convince their minds that sin is not their fault, they will never admit that they deserve eternal punishment and, consequently, need God’s merciful pardon through the atonement of Christ. Since only those who deserve wrath are in need of mercy, and since only those who deserve damnation are in need of salvation, sinners must be shown and convinced in their minds that they deserve the wrath and condemnation of God if they are going to be genuinely saved. Those who are convinced that sin is not their personal fault, but is the defect of their inherited nature instead of the deliberation of their own free will, must be shown and convinced otherwise if we are going to have revival.
If men think that they are victims of sin, rather than criminals through sin, they will not look to Christ for merciful pardon but will think that they deserve liberation from any penalties on account of sin. Salvation will only be seen as an act of grace and mercy on God’s part, if sin is seen as entirely and completely inexcusable and unjustifiable. And sin is only inexcusable and unjustifiable if sin is not inevitable but entirely avoidable. The Augustinian doctrine of a sinful nature, however, gives sinners the greatest excuse they could ask for.
Alfred T. Overstreet said, “Can a man really be guilty for possessing the nature with which he is born? Can God show him mercy, and pardon his guilt if it is true that he has suffered the misfortune of being born into this world a sinner? What kind of grace would it be that would save a man from the misfortunate of being born into this world a sinner? It would not be a grace that would save him; it would be justice. And how can a man sincerely repent and condemn himself for his sins if he believed that he was born a sinner and could not avoid sin because of an inborn sin nature? All the fundamental doctrines of the Bible are emptied of their meaning and become contradictory and confusing if the doctrine of original sin is accepted.”
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Jesse Morrell was radically converted to Christ in 2000 out of a life of drugs and crime. After beginning an open air street ministry in 2002, he became a full time omissionary in 2005. He has preached on 105 university and college campuses. He has lectured at Liberty University, Teen Mania Ministries, Youth With A Mission, and in various churches across the nation and abroad.