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:
- Human beings by nature are guilty.
- Jesus is 100% human.
- Therefore, Jesus is guilty.
- 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.
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.
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.
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