On Original Sin

Many Christians deny the doctrine of original sin on the basis of Ezekiel 18:19-20:

Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. 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.

The question before us is this: are we held responsible for Adam’s sin? If so, why? Does it not clearly say in Ezekiel 18 that the soul that sins shall die, and that the wickedness of the wicked will be on himself?

Let’s back up for a minute and examine just what “original sin” is. “Original sin” was not, contrary to many people’s beliefs, the first sin. “Original sin” refers to the effects of that first sin.

Up to humanity’s defining moment in Genesis 3, everything on this earth had obeyed God. He said, “Let there be light,” and the light came. The light didn’t hesitate. It didn’t say, “Maybe later; I’m sleeping.” God spoke, he commanded, and it happened. So it was with every decree through two and half chapters of Genesis.

Suddenly, what happened at the Tree of Knowledge? There was disobedience to God. Eve ate the fruit and gave it to Adam as well. God had decreed that this should never be done, and yet it was done. By the very first people in the Garden, let alone!

What were the consequences? Adam would have to work hard to till the soil, and Eve would have pain in childbearing. But it was more than that. As the apostle Paul put it, “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Rom 8:22). All of creation was punished along with Adam for his sin.

Why? I thought that the soul that sins will die. No one said anything about all of this groaning together crap! That is because we aren’t being punished for the first sin. We are feeling the effects of the first sin. Find me where, in Ezekiel 18, it says that we won’t suffer the effects of someone else’s sin.

In fact, suffering the effects of someone else’s sin is Scriptural. Consider Exodus 20:5-6:

You shall not bow down to them [idols] or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (emphasis added)

In other words, if my father steals a loaf of bread from Meijer, I won’t be punished by God. But, if my father is a raging alcoholic, I will have the effects of that sin visited upon me, my children, and their children. Until one of us breaks the cycle, that is.

Now that that is settled, I have another problem with Ezekiel 18. God says that “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself. . .” Yet we know from Scripture that the only way to stand justified before God is by the righteousness of Christ. Our own righteousness is nothing.

Which brings me to the ultimate conclusion: this saying in Ezekiel isn’t meant as an absolute case, it is meant as a proverb. Proverbs are never absolutely true, they are merely trustworthy sayings. The context fits that conclusion: Ezekiel 18:2 talks about how a certain proverb will never be repeated in Israel, and God goes on then to replace that proverb with another.

What is really at stake here is that Christians have absolutely no problem with the Last Adam’s righteousness being imputed to them, but they have a beef with the First Adam’s sin being imputed to them. They don’t want to be punished for that sin. Understandable, but that is a little like complaining about an extra week being tacked on to your sentence for a crime you didn’t commit, when you’re already serving life for crimes that you did commit. No one stands sinless before God except Christ alone.

My friend Craig, a wise individual, is fond of pointing out that if you deny the imputation of the First Adam’s sin, then you deny the need for the imputation of the Last Adam’s righteousness. And Craig and I agree nicely: deny imputed sin, deny imputed righteousness. That’s all there is to it!

Those of us who have already admitted the need for a Savior know well the depths of our own need. We wouldn’t want to deny that need for imputed righteousness. Each of us is Christian because we recognize that we can’t get to God on our own steam. We need Jesus!

Now the slam dunk: if the effects of the Fall were limited in a way that meant we are only sick in our sin (rather than dead), then we can still find a way to God under our own steam. We don’t actually need a Savior in this scheme. And there is a certain appeal to that. But I think we all know that that is not the case. No one even seeks after God, let alone would be able to make it to heaven under his or her own steam.

The effects of original sin are rather more than we care to contemplate, even on our darkest days. The effect of original sin was spiritual death immediately, and later, mortal death. And it wasn’t just humans the felt the effects of original sin. Animals, minerals, vegetables, all of creation groans together!

Since we are spiritually dead, we do not seek after God. God has to come to us, quicken our hearts to him, and bring us to him in his perfect time. All of this due to one man’s sin. Do you understand the gravity of that first sin now?

But more importantly, do you understand the gravity of denying it? You lose a major theological truth and leave man able to find God on his own. Man is not able to find God on his own; God brings man to himself, adopts him, justifies him, and conforms him to the image of God’s Son. This regeneration is all the work of God, and we have no part of it (lest any of us could boast).

Denying original sin makes man responsible for his own destiny, rather than God. We are denying the potter some right over his clay.

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 May 9, 2009, in Heresy, Sin, Theology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. Sin, sin and more sin, gee whiz. Hey, what about…original righteousness? You know, what Christ has restored us back to?

    Just an idea bro.

    • It is about sin. Ever read the new testament? Jesus’ very first sermon? “Repent” John the Baptist? “Repent” Peter? “Repent” Paul “Repent” John the Apostle? “Repent”

      Sounds like you have a problem with Scripture? Perhaps they were all negative people?

  2. It is a fatal mistake to tie the necessity of the cross or an individual’s need for faith in Christ to Adam’s sin in the garden rather than to personal sin. Anyone reading the story for themselves can see that man did not know the difference between good and evil before eating the forbidden fruit. As such, man was unable to truly make an informed decision at that time. Not only that, but there is also the strangeness and ungodlikeness of God not wanting man to have the knowledge of good and evil (which must be true if the superficial childish reading of the text that is so common is right). Why would God not want man to know the difference between good and evil, and yet the snake (presumably the devil) would want man to know it? Is God the one who loves wickedness and immorality while the devil loves morality? It seems so backwards. Until you realize that God told Adam and Eve to not eat the forbidden fruit precisely to make them eat it. This is a conclusion many modern people have undoubtedly come to independently, as I have. Yet, I found yesterday that the dreaded Pelagius himself said the same thing, and I quote, “When Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden they were like small children: they simply obeyed God’s instructions without considering the moral reasons for those instructions. To become mature they needed to learn the distinction for themselves between right and wrong, good and evil. And God gave them the opportunity to become mature by putting within the garden the tree of knowledge, by which they could learn this distinction. But if God had simply instructed Adam and Eve to eat from the tree, and they had obeyed, they would have been acting like children. So he forbade them from eating the fruit; this meant that they themselves had to make a decision, whether to eat or not to eat. Just as a young person needs to defy his parents in order to grow to maturity, so Adam and Eve needed to defy God in order to share his knowledge of good and evil. By defying God, Adam and Eve grew to maturity in his image.” This is the only explanation of the story that doesn’t present God as opposed to morality. Of course the issue of the punishment remains, death and increased pain in childbearing, punishing the snake to crawl on its belly and eat dirt. If God had truly wanted Adam and Eve to eat the fruit to mature, why add all these punishments? Perhaps because these were also necessary to maturity. Certainly if the race of men was to enlarge, death was necessary, for if Adam and Eve “replenished” the earth and subdued it with immortal posterity, there would soon enough be no standing room left on the earth! Surely, what is described to us as punishments, are in fact not really. They are only described in this story as punishments for the most childish and immature reader, whereas for the wise strong meat is taught (as Paul says). The literal sense, the letter, serves a purpose in instructing the immature bade, but it killeth the mature if they hold on to it beyond childhood, for which reason Paul says in 1st Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” The Calvinists refuse to put away the childish superficial reading of the story of Adam and Eve and join mature Christians. They would rather sit around shaking raddles and crying.

    • An admitted Pelagian… This is the end of humanistic thinking, and brilliantly illustrates why all men need a savior, and why this one in particular is blind to his own sins.

      So mature Christians deny sin. Guess what? That makes Christ a very immature person. For all he ever talked about was sin.

  3. “Denying original sin makes man responsible for his own destiny, rather than God. We are denying the potter some right over his clay.”

    An example of Biblical illiteracy at its height! Read Jeremiah 18:3-10. God as potter deals with a sentient clay and changes what He does based on whether the clay repents or not.

    Jeremiah 18:3-10 “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels. {4} And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. {5} Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, {6} O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. {7} At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; {8} If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. {9} And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; {10} If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”

  4. “Now the slam dunk: if the effects of the Fall were limited in a way that meant we are only sick in our sin (rather than dead),”

    “Dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1) means “on death row because of personal trespasses and sins.” If you doubt that the Scriptures use the word “dead” in the sense of “on death row” as opposed to actually currently dead, then see Romans 8:10 “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” IS your body dead right now, Cory? Paul says “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead”!!!!!! Does he mean that you are a literal corpse and cannot move? No. He means your body is on death row. He means it will die someday, not that it is already dead.

    • wow… cannot even begin to address how simplistic, and completely wrong this line of reasoning is. But I did address it on the author’s own blog site.

  5. “Now that that is settled, I have another problem with Ezekiel 18. God says that ‘The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself. . .’ Yet we know from Scripture that the only way to stand justified before God is by the righteousness of Christ. Our own righteousness is nothing.” (Cory)

    Where do we read Jesus saying “Our own righteousness is nothing”? Nowhere. Where do we read anyone saying this in Scripture? “Aha!” saith the Calvinist “Isaiah says it!” Does he? I ask. “Yes,” saith the Calvinist, “he says it in Isaiah 64:6.” Ok, lets look at that verse!

    Isaiah 64:6 “But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.”

    This might seem to support the Calvinist view if the preceding verse is left out, Isaiah 64:5 “You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, Who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned; In these ways we continue; And we need to be saved.”

    In the preceding verse, 5, Isaiah compares the righteous and the wicked. The righteous remember God’s ways and rejoice to work righteousness! And God meets them (clearly meant to be a good thing!). But the wicked, continue in sins (as opposed to repenting) and need to be saved. Ok, now we get to verse 6, where Isaiah describes the Jewish people of his time as in the latter category! Their righteousness is as filthy rags, not because man cannot be righteous, but because they are not being so. Their righteousness is as filthy rags because what good are righteous deeds while you continue in a state of obstinant unrepentance? Its like cleaning off the hog while its still wallowing in the mire (see 2nd Peter 2:22).

    Isaiah is not teaching that man is incapable of being righteous, but that his people are not being righteous at that time. Indeed, he says that there are righteous people whom God meets, who remember God’s ways and rejoice to WORK righteousness. That sounds much like what John says in 1st John 3:7 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” What man would want to deceive us and make us think that men cannot be righteous by doing righteousness, John???? Is there really such a man as that???

    Enter Paul, left stage. Romans 3:10 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:”–a misquotation of Psalm 14:3 (which says) “there is none that doeth good, no, not one” which is also taken out its context of speaking exclusively about the “workers of iniquity…who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.” Paul is using the Old Testament dishonestly here, and there is no way around this fact.

    But forget Paul. What does Jesus say? Jesus is our Lord, not Paul. So, what does Jesus say? That our own righteousness is nothing? That no man can be righteous? No. He says in Luke 15:7 “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” A just (i.e. righteous) person who needs no repentance??? Its too bad to the Jewish authorities beat them to killing Jesus, because after reading that I’m sure many Calvinists are ready to light up some faggots to burn the Son of God at the stake.

    Jesus also says in Matthew 5:20 “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Yes, says the Calvinist, but he means that his righteousness is imputed to you. Not so, for the context is against it. He says not one word about a transfer or righteousness from himself to anyone, but immediately after that saying “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees…” he says “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill…But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…” These words explain what Jesus means by saying our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Whereas the scribes and Pharisees have followed the low morality of the Old Testament (what was said of old) we must follow the high morality of Christ (what I say unto you). No other interpretation of these words matches the context!

    Again, Jesus says in Mark 2:17 “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He does not say he came to call sinners to irresistibly accept a transfer of righteousness that will make them righteous without them having to repent and actually be righteous. NO! He says he came to call them to repentance, which according to Ezekiel 18, will actually make them righteous, and then “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself.” Upon himself only in the sense that he made the choice to repent. God is still the savior, because it is God who upon the basis of Christ’s sacrifice accepts repentance! God didn’t have to accept repentance! He could have said unless you lived a perfect life you’re toast (literally) but God graciously decided that repentance would avail with him as righteousness. All the Calvinist arguments to the contrary, and all of Paul’s attempts to transfer the power of repentance to bare faith, cannot ever overturn this fact taught both by Ezekiel and Christ Himself, not to mention the real apostles like Peter, James and John.

    • Rey,

      Where do I start? There is so much to say but will keep it as brief as possible. The Adam & Eve story you shared, respectfully is a great distortion and misunderstanding of events, motives, innocence, childlikeness….its like this:

      THERE IS A CHILDHOOD into which we have to grow, just as there is a childhood which we must leave behind. One is a childishness from which but few of those who are counted wisest among men have freed themselves. The other is a child-likeness, which is the highest gain of humanity. GM

      How was it that Jesus said we could “enter in” to this Kingdom of God? By childlikeness, trusting, innocence.
      The most mature believer is the most childlike in his innocence, trusting, humble, joyful. He knows and trusts Abba Father implicitely.

      The other thing that popped out to me is what I have expected all along my friend. It has not yet been revealed to you that you (or any of us) have no righteousness of our own, you are still holding on to a self righteousness as if adam had any? Or do you not understand that you too were “in” adam? (As in adam ALL died, so in Christ ALL will be made alive, 1 Cor 15:22) that’s why adam (your old, inherited, sinful self and nature) had to die, had to go to the cross with Christ.

      This is how the Jews wrongfully believed and still believe…”For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” Romans 10:3.

      I had to go thru a severe season of chastening before I fully let go of the lie that I had any righteousness of my own, that any of my own good works justified anything, otherwise we wind up competing with the blood of Jesus! Good works get us nowhere with God, for no flesh (man) will glory in His sight and He shares His glory with no man (flesh). You’re still seeing two but It’s Christ in you, the substance of eternal spirit that causes Father to “passover” us in judgment when He sees the blood of the lamb on the doorpost of our hearts (spirits). We walk in righteousness by abiding in Christ alone…Christ who IS our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor 1:30).

      All the best…

      • You clearly didn’t read a word I said. Try reading the end of the last paragraph again: “Upon himself only in the sense that he made the choice to repent. God is still the savior, because it is God who upon the basis of Christ’s sacrifice accepts repentance! God didn’t have to accept repentance! He could have said unless you lived a perfect life you’re toast (literally) but God graciously decided that repentance would avail with him as righteousness. All the Calvinist arguments to the contrary, and all of Paul’s attempts to transfer the power of repentance to bare faith, cannot ever overturn this fact taught both by Ezekiel and Christ Himself, not to mention the real apostles like Peter, James and John.”

  6. Rey,

    How can Paul not be a “real” apostle? With this thinking you are tossing out most of the NT? Seems a bit presumptious, even arrogant dare I say? Kindly, straighten me out would ya? Thx

    • Have you ever read Galatians chapters 1 and2? How about Revelation 2:2 and 2nd Tim 1:15?

      • Wow Rey.. and here we see the truth of the matter. You reject Scripture. 2 Peter 3:15-16 Peter, an Apostle, noted that Paul’s writings were Scripture. But apparently you’re a bit more informed and wiser…

  7. Rey,

    Yea, I have and Galatians 1 opens up with these (Holy Spirit inspired words)…”Paul, an Apostle sent not from men nor by any man, but by Jesus Christ and by God the Father”.

    When we wind up majoring on the minors and visa versa, we snip, cut, delete, chop here and there we miss out on the All, and Christ is that All. If you are going to dismiss Paul’s writings (actually Christ in Paul, Gal 2:20) then you will have little basis for so many pearls that the Lord used his surrendered heart to bring to our attention. Do you see this at all?

    • ”Paul, an Apostle sent not from men nor by any man, but by Jesus Christ and by God the Father” is the thesis of what Paul is attempting to prove in the first two chapters. And you would do well to see how he attempts to prove it. Specifically by distancing himself from the 12, and by saying that Peter, James, and John “seemed to be something–but whatever they were makes no difference to me.” Is that argument Paul uses really convincing to you? “I’m an apostle of Jesus Christ not of man, because I am independent of the 12 and I think Peter, James, and John only seem to be something yet I don’t care what they are.” Way to go Paul! You sure proved your thesis!

      • Paul didn’t write it (Gal 2:20), neither did any of the other Writers of Holy Writ, that’s the mystery. ALL scripture being inspired (God breathed) by the Holy Spirit according to your friend Timothy who is Christ in disguise as are we. Christ who IS our life.

        Christ came not only to give His life a ransom, but also to remind us of who we really are in the eyes of the Father, who we were before the fall…until we all attain (again) to the full measure of the stature of Christ.

      • Amazingly, John the Apostle, Peter the Apostle (being rebuked by Paul and yet claiming that God used Paul to write Scripture), Clement, Polycarp, Iraneus, Tertullian, Origen, Jerome, Augustine, (heck even Pelagian), and every single believer up and until Rey, has been mistaken in their belief that Paul was an Apostle. Remarkable. Thanks Rey for clearing up all of Christian doctrine for us.

  8. Good article. Please ignore the dribble of the unrepentant and sin-denying comments of ‘Rey’. Keep up the good work. Praise God that you are bringing glory to Him alone and not to his creation. http://stilltoday.wordpress.com/

  9. I do not agree with what Catholics and western Christians believe to be original sin which did take place in the second century. There is nothing that clearly states that in scripture itself and to take but one verse and get a whole theology on original sin from it seems odd. When the bible is covered with scripture claiming that children do not bear the sin of their parents (Exodus 32:32-33; Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Jeremiah 31:30; Ezekiel 18:20). Yes including this one in Ezekiel, so if we are not born sinful then why would we be in need of a savior? 1.God made us to be in complete union with Him, and God from the beginning knew Christ was to come as the lamb that was slain before the foundations of the world. Christ had to come in order to bring the Holy Spirit so we God’s children could be One with Him and He could be In us rather than just residing with us. We were never complete without Christ coming and bringing the Holy Spirit to live in us so we could effectively live the lives that He has called us to live and give us the power over sin. It is obvious that we can be righteous without Christ it is spread throughout the OT and even NT even before Christ’s death on the cross. We assume there is some magic timeline or window of opportunity that separates before and after his death. If we look at what Christ taught and what our modern churches teach then we just might have to rethink most of our theology and preaching. We seem to disregard Christ teaching for what Paul taught and if we don’t interpret the word correctly we can see Christ contradicts Paul. And if we can’t seem to explain it then we just pass it by. Christ came not as a ransom or because we are all gonna see some hell fire and damnation and eternal judgement but to restore man back to God and when I say restore it means that we came from God in order to be restored. To say that man existed out side of God before we were born would be heresy but to say that we existed in God from the beginning would be more theologically correct. Man cannot exist outside of God. Thus for if we came from God how then can we be a sinner in the womb? This whole theology of original sin is only about 1,000 yrs old and our western Christian theology is only about 150yrs old. I find it so amazing to believe that we have all truth and got it all figured out when that thought is so limited and so young. There has not been a Jew or any other Christian faith that has accepted that thought or theology until The doctrine of original sin was first developed in second-century Bishop of Lyon Irenaeus’s struggle against Gnosticism. Then again It was in the West that precise definition of the doctrine arose. Augustine of Hippo taught that original sin was physically transmitted from parent to child through the concupiscence (roughly, lust) that accompanied sexual reproduction, weakening the will and making humanity a massa damnata (mass of perdition, condemned crowd). In Augustine’s view (termed “Realism”), all of humanity was really present in Adam when he sinned, and therefore all have sinned. Original sin, according to Augustine, consists of the guilt of Adam which all humans inherit. As sinners, humans are utterly depraved in nature, lack the freedom to do good, and cannot respond to the will of God without divine grace. Grace is irresistible, results in conversion, and leads to perseverance. This only leads to one problem that even Christ was born of a Human thus making him sinful in which case He was not. Ok say that that believe is only from father to son then all woman are not sinful or say that it is only from father to all offspring then when do we stop making up what fits our personal beliefs and or what we want to believe? That is like saying when Jesus turned the water into wine that He made grape juice instead of wine because we are not supposed to get drunk…. Yes we feel the effects of sin in our sinful world but to say that we are born sinful there is no scripture not one that clearly states that we are born with a sinful nature or born sinful. To come to the conclusion because some people were trying to get a point across to a bunch of heathens in the second century we must revisit what we believe and why we believe what we believe and look beyond what we have been taught and find the truth. Go back 2,000 yrs ago to what Christ taught and said to find the true meaning of salvation not of Hell but saved from a world of sin to a union and life full of God the creator through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

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

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