Postulating a “Sin Nature” is Unnecessary

I posted a Facebook status the other day on why I don’t believe human beings are born guilty before God (probably not the best idea I’ve ever had). The notion is that because Adam sinned, we some how inherit a “sinful nature” from him, his sin is imputed to us at conception (or birth?). I don’t believe this, first and foremost, because I don’t see it in the text. Yes, I’ve read Romans 5:12-21. The Facebook post laid out a logical argument against this belief:

  1. Human beings by nature are guilty.
  2. Jesus is 100% human.
  3. Therefore, Jesus is guilty.
  4. Also, therefore, babies (born or unborn) are guilty.

The fact that Jesus was born of a virgin, or the Holy Spirit, does nothing to avoid the conclusion. As long as you affirm the two premises, the conclusion necessarily follows. This is one reason why I deny the first premise.

To be clear, I believe we will all sin without exception, but we will do so of our own choosing. In other words, I am guilty because of me, not Adam. Our human nature – imperfect beings with freewill – seems quite sufficient to guarantee that we will sin, to me. I don’t feel the need to add on some “sin nature”.

You may disagree. In fact, I would venture to say that most evangelicals like me do disagree, at least, most of the evangelicals in my own circle. That’s alright, I hope you don’t find me a heretic. I would encourage you to consider the rest of this article, not as conclusive evidence for my position, but as part of a larger argument against this imputed “sin nature”.

Romans 5:12-21 gets all the attention in this debate, if there even is a debate on this. In my circles, at least, it seems to be a sacred cow that is rarely, if ever, discussed. I would like to focus some attention on Adam and his condition in Genesis.

Good, not God

God looked at all he created and determined it was good (Genesis 1:31). It was good that Adam existed and it was good that he existed the way in which he existed. Adam existed in a manner that God determined to be good. We often hear people say that Adam was perfect, or that the conditions in the Garden were perfect. Depending on what your definition of perfect is, this may be misleading.

Adam lacked. He lacked a wife, he lacked knowledge, he lacked the completion of his work. It is not as if he were sitting around experiencing the maximum amount of pleasure at all times. The human condition is not perfect in the sense that it lacks nothing. Only God lacks nothing, and in this sense, only God is perfect. Adam was good, not God.

Necessary Conditions

Here’s the real kicker for me. In the condition that God determined to be good, Adam was already capable of sin. The necessary conditions for sinning are (1) freewill and (2) an imperfect nature. Perhaps, we should add the element of temptation as a necessary condition also. God has freewill, but is not capable of sinning because his very nature is Goodness. To sin would be to not be God. Adam, however, had an imperfect nature — he was not God. The angels are not God, some of them have sinned as well.

The idea of a sinful nature being imputed to every human being from Adam, has a fundamental problem. Adam sinned without such a nature. The sin nature is taught to be a consequence of Adam’s sin. But Adam’s sin comes first. He did not have a “sin nature”.

At the very least, this means a “sin nature” is not necessary for a person to sin. Adam and Eve both sinned before such a nature is said to exist. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, but it does mean that it isn’t necessary.

Conclusion

It is not sinful for a creature to exist as it does. When God looks at human nature, He says “It is good.” Let us not say, “It is guilty, shameful.” We will all certainly and freely choose to sin of our own accord, but not for a second do I believe human nature is of its very nature guilty. Of its very nature, humanity is imperfect. If this is a crime, we are not to blame. Even if what the “sin nature” advocate says is true, I am guilty of something I did not do. As it is, we are to blame for our sin because it is we who have freely chosen to turn our backs on a good God, just like Adam. I deserve the wrath of God. Instead, He sent His Son, who freely chose to die in my place.

Patron Exclusive Content

 

 

Advertisements

32 Comments »

  1. Wow! No comments? What a great Biblical question: Born with or without sin. I disagree that we aren’t born into sin, but I do agree it’s largely a mute point because we all will sin and end up in the same sinking boat. The sinner boat, which needs a Savior.

    Sorry if you got skewered on Facebook for posting your opinion. I wish people could disagree like civilized folk. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maybe I missed it in the message, but Jesus never was guilty. Yes he was 100% man but He was also 100% God. The seed of Adam continues the line of sin. Not only because He was the literal Son of God, but He never received the seed of Adam, therefore never applied to Him. He lived a perfect and sinless life. The only one who has I might add. He became the embodiment of sin only one time, on the cross so to take the full wrath of God as the perfect sacrifice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I appreciate your thoughts on this matter. I do not think I have ever thought much about our sin nature in that light. I do not think I am in complete disagreement with you; but it caused me to think. I can see the gears a smoking now.

    Like

  4. I do not believe in original sin in the sense that I am guilty because of what Adam did. I feel that I inherited the ability to sin from Adam but I am held accountable for what I do, not what somebody else does. Ultimately, Jesus was held accountable on the cross for what I have done and do, so I am most thankful to Him for that!

    Like

  5. In my religion, we believe Adam was innocent and therefore transgressed; he did not sin. His actions did still lead to the Fall and therefore required Christ as our Savior regardless. Additionally, it’s very important to regard Adam and Eve as incredibly brave and their actions necessary; neither of them were evil for what they did. Thanks for your post!

    Like

  6. You have left out too much of how God created man in his image … holy not God, but holy and with a free agency, Adam who was tempted by Eve, chose to sin, bringing death, death to body and to his holy nature, therefore man lost the holy nature and took upon himself a sinful nature. Jesus explained very nicely about children they are born with a sinful nature and yet uncapable of sin until they understand (reach the age of understanding) right from wrong, unfortunately some never actually reach that understanding, therefore God counts them innocent. But as God said through Paul there would not have been sin if there was no law. It is by the fall of Adam that the very nature of man was changed, As for Jesus, Yes he was born of human flesh he was 100% human but you failed to note that he was also 100% God, He was tempted in all his natural appetite’s however, he sinned not … He did not come here to do the work to find favor with the Father, but to fulfill the demands of the law by taking upon himself our human nature and our sin, to suffer and die on the cross, death on the cross, and to rise from the bonds of death to live eternally. Eternally restored to the Holy Nature.
    A Great Post! But incomplete, and although I absolutely disagree with your reasoning. It should make the Christian examine carefully what it is that we believe and what the Word of God (the Bible) has to say about it. Thanks for the post.

    Like

  7. Hi Hayden, I like your post clearly expressed and original. The way I understand original sin is that we are born into an unjust sinful world, and we are part of that injustice and cannot extricate ourselves from it Eg, poverty and inequality, the destruction of the environment etc.

    Like

  8. Hayden, I must say that you are on to something. There is much that is missed without knowing some of the facts. On the other hand, we must keep the faith with knowing that many will seem to have a good definition based on the history we have been given. Continue to search and those things you seek will become a beam of insight. Great premise which will allow an extended path to truth.

    Like

  9. Hey Haddon, read your post and thought that I would attempt to address what you had written in a rebuttal of my own. Feel free to check it out and offer any comments, critique, etc. Just wanted to give you a friendly heads up. In Christ, Kris.

    Like

    • Thanks for the response. It seems like you agree that humans are not by nature guilty. If so, we’re probably in agreement in everything that follows. In my context, “sin nature” was always used in this sense: “Even if you never personally chose to sin, you would still be guilty by the sin nature you inherited from Adam.” If your definition of “sin nature” = “an inclination toward sin”, I actually agree. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear. Thanks for the thoughtful response, as always.

      Like

      • I see…
        As I understand “sin-nature” this is the direct consequence of Adam’s rebellion—I.e. all of his offspring inherit his fallen disposition. Because of this we are inclined towards sinning—we are sinners by nature, that’s what we do. In that sense we have already received the condemnation of Adam and we are guilty before God. Not because we don’t sin or because of another’s sin, but due to our own. Original sin (doctrine) argues that something was lost in the garden—ie our ability to do good by loving God and neighbor with our whole heart. Christ then steps into history to right the wrong Adam had done, by taking on the old man (sinner) so that we might put on the new man (Christ). He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. His faithfulness (obedience/righteousness) replaces our fallenness (unfaithful, unrighteous, disobedience). This being transferred to us by an act of God’s grace (Father , Son, Holy Spirit), not because of anything we possess. All that aside unless we repent and believe in the Lord, we do stand condemned already.

        Like

  10. Are you saying the conclusion David expressed in Ps 51.5 is wrong? If so, please explain what it means in regards to original sin (sin nature). If not, please explain what it means in regards to original sin (sin nature). Thanks.

    Like

  11. I’m so glad to see someone else question this also! I always thought everything before the downfall couldn’t have been ‘perfect’ because Adam and Eve had freewill prior to it. It was freewill that allowed them to choose to sin which led to the downfall. So humans were CAPABLE of sinning since the beginning, but that doesn’t mean I CARRY Adam’s sin; I’m already carrying the burden of past, present, and future sins, which are thankfully forgiven in Christ. But I do live in the SINFUL WORLD that Adam brought upon his decedents. Gosh, I hope that made sense. I also never quite got the deal with Jesus’ nature, either. It always made me think of when Jesus was in the temple and overturned the tables at which the tax collectors were collecting taxes. To me, that showed me that Jesus was very human, maybe more so than we’d like to believe. People would tell me that it was ‘righteous anger’

    Like

  12. Sorry I pushed reply and didn’t mean to! Basically, I didn’t understand how ‘righteous anger’ was different from regular anger. Was it right just because it came from Jesus? If someone is doing something that is wrong in the church and I get angry is that also righteous anger? So many questions to ponder and learn from.

    Like

  13. I am in agreement with your observation that both Adam and Eve sinned before the sin nature, the consequence of their sin, existed. It is, however, taught that Jesus, although human, did not inherit the sin nature as he was not conceived by man and woman but rather the Holy Spirit.

    Like

  14. To the early church fathers “original sin” was known as “ancestral sin”— huge contextual differences. Man’s Nature is, and always has been “good”. Though, because of man’s inevitabilty to will sin, his natural Nature towards everything good has now been “twisted” (for lack of a better word) and yet, man’s Nature, even inspite of Death (one’s inheritance from the personal act of sin) is still, and always will be, innately “good”.

    This is a very tough subject for the western mindset to grasp. Great attempt to convey a topic that would generally need a book’s length to articulate.

    Like

    • There is no “sin nature” of fallen man, our Nature is innately, and forever good. At this junction, our Nature is simply “skewed”– as if light was piercing through a piece of fragmenting glass. No matter how evil one could get, God still, at one’s core, is that base factor thus, never can one be totally corrupted, never can one’s God given Nature be forever condemning, as it truly comes from the very Source of all things, a Source that is invariably and ultimately good.

      Like

  15. Excellent post, I agree firmly with you. We are undoubtedly born with a mixed nature, including a predisposition to sin. But we do not condemn for a predisposition alone, but rather for the manifestation of wrongful acts.
    Christ was born with the same predisposition to sin, but when tempted by Satan choose not to. That is why we call him holy.
    Infants are born with the same predisposition, but are not yet capable to act upon them. That is why we call them innocent.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s