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"Mortifying the Doctrine of Original Sin"
by Dr. J. Patrick Johnston
(Note: I have omitted the Scripture quotes with emboldened references in order to save space, but they are a MUST read!)
We could examine and refute many doctrines in the contemporary church which are nothing but biblically-derived excuses for sin, and actually are not biblical at all. So many of these sin-justifying doctrines that are preached weekly from America's pulpits become weapons in the hands of hypocrites with which to fight God, undermine His law and judgments, and quench the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I submit to you, that one of the most fundamental false premises in contemporary theology today from which proceeds almost all nonsensical, sin-excusing, rebellion-justifying doctrine is the doctrine of original sin.
Charles Finney said, "Thousands of men have held the dogma that sin consists in great part in having a sinful nature. Yes, through the long ages of history, ... it has resounded from pulpits, and... men have seemed to never weary of glorifying this dogma as the surest test of sound orthodoxy. Orthodoxy! There never was a more infamous malicious slander against Jehovah! It would be hard to name another dogma which more violently outrages common sense. It is nonsense - absurd and utter nonsense. Think what mischief it has wrought! Think how it has scandalized the law, the government, and the character of God! Think how it has filled the mouths of sinners with excuses from the day of its birth to this hour."
attempt to show:
1. What is sin, and what is a sinful nature,
Defininition of sin - a choice, a malicious crime against God or neighbor, a willful transgression of the law (God's law, conscience - I Jn.3:4; Rom.2:13-15). The mind and the conscience must be developed in order for sinful or righteous choices to be possible.
Definition of sinful - full of sin, or full of willful transgressions of the law of God
I Jn.3:4 says, "sin is the transgression of the law". James said, "To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin". I Cor.10:13 - sin is a choice to resist the way of escape and bow to the tempter. Sin comes not from the flesh or the genes, but from the heart, which is often synonymous with the free will: Mark 7:21-23: "From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Flesh cannot be blamed for sin. The flesh is morally neutral - in the wicked it is an instrument of unrighteousness, and in the saint an instrument of righteousness. The appetites of the flesh are an occasion for temptation, but not a causation for sin. If one chooses to sin, his heart is wicked.
What does the Bible mean by "heart"? The words employed in the original languages translated "heart" are also translated mind, soul, and refer to the center of a thing. It means, the seat of the will - that which makes moral choices from which sin or holiness proceeds. We can know the heart by the actions; we can know the root by the fruit (Matt.7:16-20: "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.") Peter saw Simon sin, and said, "Thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee" (Acts 8:21-22). One cannot choose to sin and have a heart right with God. If one sins, his heart is wicked, and only the pure in heart will see God. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things" (Matt.12:35). So sin comes directly from a wicked heart, not the flesh. Only indirectly can sin be thought of residing in the flesh of the sinner, for the wicked heart chooses to fulfill the fleshly appetites in an unlawful way, and becomes a slave to his carnal flesh.
Allow me to define that doctrine which I am attempting to refute, the doctrine of original sin (DOOS) - man is born a sinner; he has inherited a sinful nature from Adam which makes transgression of God's law inevitable, but does not become personally guilty until he sins of his own free will. It is this generic doctrine to which I refer when I mention the DOOS. There are different variations of this doctrine, for instance, the Westminster Confession of 1649 stated that man sinned in Adam's loins and therfore are guilty of Adam's transgression, and that all men inherited a corrupt, sinful nature unwillingly from Adam and even saints will always have it until their death. While many proponents of the DOOS will admit we are born sinners with sinful natures because of Adam, they reject the idea that we participated in his sin when we were just DNA in his sperm, and therefore rightly partake of his guilt.
How does one inherit the sinful nature? It must be physical, because moral character cannot be passed on, because it consists in a choice. Choices cannot be passed on seminally. If choices could, would the choice of two Christian parents be passed on to their child? Of course not. I give my child the virtue of honesty through education, discipline, and consistent corporal punishment, not through my genes. Likewise, a sinner makes his children wicked by way of his influence upon them, not by the influence of his genes. The sinful nature must be physical then. Is it a gene, or something in the blood? Some teach the males pass it on. If so, it must be in the Y gene, and females don't have it! Then you have a problem explaining the universality of sin among females of age. If it is in the blood, what happens to a Christian who is in an accident who receives blood from a sinner? If it was in the blood, it would be easy to convert sinners - give them a blood transfusion!! Some say that it is not in a specific gene, but all of the genes cooperate to encourage selfish, and therefore, sinful behavior. This genetic disposition to will one's own wellbeing primarily cannot be sinful, however, because it is involuntary and sin is a choice. This is the way God made us: if a baby does not cry when he is hungry, and a man does not pull back his hand from the hot stove, something is wrong. These involuntary desires for self-preservation and self-interest can be an influence to sin, but they cannot in and of themselves be sinful. The commandment says "Love thy neighbor as thyself", implying the disposition we have to will our own good is lawful. The beasts of the field have this involuntary drive to will their own good primarily, and it is not sinful in them. Neither is it sinful in humans.
According to the Bible, the positive or negative influence of parents on their children is made over time, not at conception. The influence of the forefathers upon their children is educational, not seminal. This is so obvious as to not require further elucidation.
What is meant by sinful nature? If it is meant that our constitution, our design is sinful, I deny it absolutely, and even sinners, even devils do not have one. That would make the Creator of our natures the creator of sin. We were created not by Satan or Adam, but by God. We were created in the image of God, and it is contrary to our design to sin. Lie detectors, for instance, would not work if lying were a natural phenomenon. Lying runs contrary to our design, and our nervous and cardiovascular system goes bizarre should we lie. When we operate a thing contrary to its design, harm results. If I were to eat pudding with a shovel and dig a ditch with a spoon, for example, harm would result. When we sin, harm results - consider the harm adultery, murder, divorce, child abuse, rape, perjury, stealing, and drunkenness brings upon an individual, their family, and their society - this is evidence that sin is contrary to our design.
If by sinful nature you mean the power of habit, that one becomes so enslaved to his carnal appetites that sin, which is contrary to his nature, becomes in a sense, natural to him, I concur, but sin will always be contrary to his constitution. For instance, homosexuality is abnormal, and people are not born homosexuals; but when one begins to succumb to those desires outside of the confines of God's law where those desires can be safely fulfilled, sexual perversion can become, in time, "natural" to the sex pervert - the unnatural becomes natural to this twisted mind filled with unrestrained lust. But the "sodomite nature" comes through the choice, not the genes. If this is what is meant by a sinful nature, sinners have this, and it is not inherited but acquired through sinning. Jn.8:34: "Whosoever committeth sin is a servant of sin." But saints do not; Jn.8:36: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." Rom.6:6, 9-12: When the believer is planted together in the likeness of His death, and raised in the likeness of His resurrection, his "old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin... Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him. For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. Lukewise (in the same way) reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your moral body..." Gal.5:24: "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."
If what is meant by a sinful nature is that our senses and natural desires to which the devil appeals when we are tempted to fulfill those desires in an unlawful way, tell me, why do we call this sinful? It is not a sin to be tempted. Let's call it a temptation nature, and I agree, I have one. But so did Lucifer and Adam, for they also were tempted. So also did Jesus, for He was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin.
This idea of sin and a sinful nature does away with the proper definition of sin. It makes sin a disease, which one receives involuntarily; it makes sin a substance, a gene, which one receives involuntarily from one or both parents, not a true choice. Those who admit to the DOOS inconsistently admit sin is a choice, but the cause of the choice is the sinful nature they inherited from Adam. But if there be a cause of the sin, then it is not sin. (Jesus said, "They hated me without a cause" Jn.15:25.) Where their is no freedom of the will to choose, there can be no virture or vice. Where there is no freedom, there can be no moral obligation. If there be no ability to obey, their can be no just condemnation for disobedience.
2. The doctrine of original sin places the fault of sin on Adam directly, and God indirectly, and if this doctrine is true, the transgressor is innocent, not guilty, the sinner is a victim, not a criminal, he should be pitied, not condemned; and 3. that if this doctrine is true, the transgressor is innocent, not guilty, the sinner is a victim, not a criminal, he should be pitied, not condemned,
In Gen.3:1-13, we see that from the very beginning, man wanted to blame God for his sin. This doctrine places the blame of sin on God! It is an affront to His holiness and justice.
The consciences of all sinners and honest saints know that if this doctrine be true, that God is unjust. We are often confronted with this inconsistency in Christian doctrine on campus by the heathen.
Sodomites say, "I was born this way". Most evangelicals refute it, saying that it is a choice contrary to God's law, and therefore a sin, and therefore condemnable. If they could not help being homosexuals, God would be unjust to condemn them for it. But the evangelicals are inconsistent when they hold to the doctrine of original sin.
What would you think about a blind man who is arrested and convicted of murder because a boy tripped over his cane, fell in the street, and was killed by an oncoming vehicle. We would all agree, if the blind man was in compliance with the law to the best of his ability, he has committed no crime. He is innocent. So likewise, if sinners sin because of a sinful nature they received involuntary from their parents, Adam, and ultimately their Creator, they are not responsible for their actions. They are innocent. Only an unjust judge would condemn them for this action.
What would you think if someone made your breaks inoperative, and as a consequence, you could not stop at a stop sign, and hit and killed a pedestrian. Are you guilty? No honest judge or jury would condemn you.
To be saved, one must confess his sin, and admit his guilt. This doctrine leads an honest man to admit his sin, but deny the guilt of it. How could he be guilty if he couldn't help it. Honesty would lead him to find guilt in God if he was to be consistent, for giving him this sinful nature apart from any choice of his, and for a system of justice which would condemn to hell such an one as him, who could not prevent that for which he was condemned. It is a stumblingblock to the conviction and conversion of sinners. This tradition of man makes the word of God, which should convict sinners, of no effect (Matt.15:1-9). A sinner must deny this doctrine in practice, although he might admit it in theory, in order to be saved.
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