On Original Sin

Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

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Beowulf2k8 doesn’t believe that the doctrine of original sin is biblical in light of Ezekiel 18:20:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Beowulf, in the comment section of this post, says:

Adam’s sin only brings physical death and the inclination towards sin. We do not inherit its guilt so as to be born or conceived damned, nor can we be damned for his sin since God explicitly states “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”

Physical death and the inclination toward sin are only two of the effects of the Fall. The other effect, the effect that Beowulf denies, is imputed sin. Craig French (aka Antipelagian) rightly points out the consequences of such a belief system:

If you want to reject our Fall in Adam, you must also reject our Salvation through the Second Adam. Denying federal representation cuts both ways…you reject original sin, you reject Christ’s atonement.

Let’s take a moment to look at the doctrine of imputed sin, then we’ll see why it is so important for the Atonement. First, we need to understand that we live in a individualist society and that the Bible was written by and to a collectivist society. Collectivist societies have a strong sense of identity with the family unit. This is woven all throughout the Bible. Consider the numerous genealogies that are given. The individual identity was never as important as the family, and the head of the family (the father) gave the entire family its reputation.

In this sort of society, the son would expect to suffer for the sins of his father.

Adam is the federal head of the human race. By blood, all of us are descended from Adam. We take our ultimate family identification from him. This means that, in a collectivist sense, we should expect to suffer the consequences of his sin, since he is the head of our race. In a collectivist society, this would be the norm and no one would have the problem that Beowulf has with it.

Adam’s sin is therefore imputed to us.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14, emphasis added)

Sin and death have entered the world through Adam, and have spread to all men. By both nature and choice, men are sinners. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Rom 5:15, emphasis added). Through that one sin, many died. But there is good news:

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19, emphasis added)

Here the apostle is contrasting Adam’s act of disobedience with Christ’s act of obedience. Because of Adam’s disobedience, many were made sinners. But because of one act of obedience by Jesus Christ, many are justified before God and considered righteous. If you reject the first premise, then you are left with no basis for the second premise.

Put another way, if you reject Adam’s imputed sin, you have no basis for accepting Christ’s imputed righteousness. You may stand before God justified on your own merit. The Apostle Paul condemns such thinking when he writes:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:8-10, emphasis added; see also 2 Tim 1:9; Tts 3:6; and Rom 3:20, 28)

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on November 26, 2008, in Apologetics, Sin, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I’m surprised that you refer to some of my comments from the Beowulf2k8 and Calvinism post but don’t deal with comment #5. That comment already refuted this misinterpretation of Romans 5. It is clear that salvation and the fall both have TWO parts, not one. (1) Jesus’ dbr saves all men from physical death via the resurrection automatically without any required response from them to receive this physical salvation just as all men inherited mortality automatically from Adam without any response required from them because Adam’s DNA was reconfigured by his sin. (2) Jesus’ dbr spiritually saves only those who believe and obey the gospel just as only those who personally sin are spiritually lost. In fact, this explain why Paul says “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,” that is it is why he says “many” rather than “all,” namely because infants are being excluded from the discussion having not been made sinners by Adam because they have not followed him in the spiritual fall yet. Unless you see that there is a physical fall and salvation that are automatic and a spiritual fall and salvation that are NOT automatic, you haven’t even bothered looking at Romans 5 with an open mind but have merely approached it with Manichean brainwashing.

  1. Pingback: On Original Sin « Christian Diversity–Mere Christians

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