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Is Denying Original Sin Heretical?

I saw on a site where the blogger was taking exception with a pastor who denied original sin.  The pastor mentioned has many more theological issues than just his denial of original sin but I want to focus on that one area of theology for a moment.  My question is, “Is it heretical to reject original sin?”

The doctrine of original sin, to me, is a doctrine that lacks biblical support.  I hold to original sin if you define original sin as the fact that Adam and Eve really sinned and their sin brought sin into the world and into human existence (Romans 5:12) but I reject the teaching that says that all human beings are born guilty of Adam’s transgression.  I read just recently on a Calvinist bloggers site about his rant against abortion (which I agreed with this writer on) and how babies should not be murdered for the sins of the father or the mother.  I agree.  The baby is innocent of sin.  The baby did nothing wrong but is aborted because of the sins of the parents.  This truly is unfair.  I agree.  Why doesn’t that apply to Adam’s sin?  Why must I pay the sins of Adam when God doesn’t ask me to pay for the sins of my children or my wife or even the sins of my own father?  Why do we take the transgression of Adam and apply it to the whole of humanity when we did not sin?

The teaching, to me, was Augustine’s overreaction to Pelagius.  Pelagius denied the fall of Man in Adam and he taught that we are born sinless and that we can remain sinless.  Pelagius taught that we are fully capable of living without sin and that we do not even receive a fallen nature from Adam’s sin.  Augustine, in my estimation, overreacted to Pelagius’ errors and he taught that not only are we sinners by nature but we are sinners at birth because of original sin.  Augustine, like other Catholics after him, taught that original sin is cancelled with infant baptism.  Other Reformers would later adopt his view including Martin Luther, John Calvin, and even James Arminius.  Since Augustine most Christian scholars have adopted his view on original sin and most evangelicals today embrace the teaching.

This is what I would like to do.  First, I want to do a post that covers the biblical basis for the Augustine teaching of original sin.  I want to show what the Bible says about this from a view that embraces original sin.  I will cite both Calvinist and Arminians who hold to the teaching of original sin including Arminius.

Then I want to look at the doctrine from a critical viewpoint.  I want to use theologians and even some bloggers who reject the teaching.  I want to see if the exegesis of biblical texts will indeed uphold or reject original sin.

We must rise and fall on the foundation of the Scriptures when it comes to theological issues.  Scripture is our final authority and not the creeds of men or the teachings of Augustine or Arminius (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Even Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-21 that his faith (and ours) is based on the authority of God in His Word.  We would do well to take all doctrines including the doctrine of original sin and apply it to the Word of God to see if it stands or falls.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/28/2012 at 10:43 AM

Posted in Original Sin

Tagged with , ,

34 Responses

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  1. Roy,
    Your efforts should produce some interesting posts. I do not agree with the doctrine of original sin, because it is not found in the scriptures. To say we are born in sin, or born sinners, is not the same as saying we are born guilty. Guilt must wait for attribution, for action, whereas sin is a nature (at least that is what I see Romans teach, particularly ch 7).

    slw

    03/28/2012 at 11:11 AM

  2. “I hold to original sin if you define original sin as the fact that Adam and Eve really sinned and their sin brought sin into the world and into human existence (Romans 5:12) but I reject the teaching that says that all human beings are born guilty of Adam’s transgression.-“
    Agreed, scripture states that we are now all sinners by choice (our nature), but we also inherited sin nature and it affects every part of us. Scripture doesn’t support original guilt.
    Deuteronomy 24:16
    16“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

    Ezekiel 18:20
    20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

    “The teaching, to me, was Augustine’s overreaction to Pelagius.”-
    AMEN, he swung the pendulum to far.

    I look forward to your future posts on this.

    Russ

    03/28/2012 at 11:21 AM

  3. Good stuff!
    I believe we suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin, but not the guilt. Often Originsl Sin is presented as a “sin virus” that infects our blood. This concept confuses disciples as they strive for holiness. They often feel it is a hopeless case since Sin is flowing thru their veins. But, it seems to me we didn’t gain a disease, but we lost our inheritance. All men become sinners because they are born alienated from God. But in Christ our lost inheritance is regained. The Spirit has been poured out so by Him we can “put sin to death” and “fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law.”
    Anyway, I guess my point is, this issue has practical implications, and the way the concept of Original Sin is usually understood seems not only unbiblical but also harmful.
    Gbu,
    Chris
    Christopherchapmanblog.wordpress.com

  4. Good stuff!
    I believe we suffer the consequences of Adam’s sin, but not the guilt. Often Originsl Sin is presented as a “sin virus” that infects our blood. This concept confuses disciples as they strive for holiness. They often feel it is a hopeless case since Sin is flowing thru their veins. But, it seems to me we didn’t gain a disease, but we lost our inheritance. All men become sinners because they are born alienated from God. But in Christ our lost inheritance is regained. The Spirit has been poured out so by Him we can “put sin to death” and “fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law.”
    Anyway, I guess my point is, this issue has practical implications, and the way the concept of Original Sin is usually understood seems not only unbiblical but also harmful.
    Gbu,
    Chris

  5. I think denying original sin is denying the reason we need a savior. I will look forward to seeing where you go with this.

    John Sneed

    03/28/2012 at 11:51 AM

  6. I don’t anyone is denying original sin but rather original guilt.

    Deuteronomy 24:16
    16“Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.

    Ezekiel 18:20
    20 “The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.

    The idea of orginal guilt is not supported in scripture

    Russ

    03/28/2012 at 12:28 PM

  7. Interesting I just posted my own views on Original Sin.

    http://victusperfidesunus.blogspot.com/2012/03/original-sin.html

    David Sumner

    03/28/2012 at 1:44 PM

    • Thanks for the link to the post. Will check it out and perhaps borrow from you if you don’t mind.

      Sent from my iPhone

      • I don’t mind at all, I would be honored. For a brief time I was seriously considering joining a Church of Christ Church. I really liked everything about it. But after a wonderful, lengthy discussion with the Pastor, I discovered that they don’t believe in Original Sin, to my understanding at least. I might be wrong. But I don’t think that they even believe that because of the fall of Adam, that we have a fallen nature.

        This to me is something that I really can’t believe, simply because my whole personal theology reject’s perfectionism. I believe that we do have a fallen nature and that we struggle with sin. A faith or theological system that believes that through personal effort, one can live sinlessly, is just not a system for me. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years now and frankly I’ve never met a sinless Christian or anyone else for that matter.

        This is why I hold to my own version of Original Sin. Yes I don’t agree with inherent guilt but I do believe that everyone inherits a fallen sinful nature.

        David Sumner

        03/28/2012 at 2:15 PM

      • Thanks David. Most Restorationist hold to the view that the Church of Christ pastor expressed. I believe they would deny perfectionism but I could be wrong about that.

  8. Thanks everyone for the comments. I look forward to writing the posts and to hearing comments about the posts. May God always be exalted in all that we say or do.

  9. Hi,

    You said,
    “Augustine, in my estimation, overreacted to Pelagius’ errors and he taught that not only are we sinners by nature but we are sinners at birth because of original sin.”

    Can you explain what is in your opinion the distinction between “sinners by nature” (is not nature something we are born with and therefore we cannot do other than sin?) and “sinners at birth because of original sin”?

    Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned ALREADY, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

    Sjoerd de Boer

    Sjoerd de Boer

    03/28/2012 at 3:07 PM

    • Sinners by nature would mean that we have the propensity toward sin but not that we have sinned. Sin, by definition, is the violation of the Law (1 John 3:4) so how can we argue that babies are born guilty of breaking the law of God when they are ignorant of His laws? Born with original sin or as some others have stated, original guilt would mean that infants are born sinners having sinned in Adam. Augustine held that infants are born sinful and infant baptism in the Catholic Church corrected this. Pelagius taught that infants are born sinless and without even a fallen nature toward sin.

      Hope that helps.

      In regard to Jesus’ statement in John 3:18, notice that Jesus ties the condemnation here to rejection of the Son and not inherited sin.

      I will develop this more in the posts to come. Thanks for your comment.

      • Im happy to know that pope Benedict reversed the Catholic church’s theological decision on infant deaths. According to the Vatican, unbaptized babies can now skip limbo and go straight to heaven. I am also happy to hear that John MacArthur believes that babies go to heaven and doesn’t agree with the reformed position that only “elect” babies go to heaven. In my humble opinion any theology that doesn’t believe that a loving God would save innocent children is in gross error. A key verse for me is when King David’s baby died and expected to see and be with his son again in eternity – “I shall go to him”. 2 Samuel 12:23. I’m looking forward to future posts on this matter. Thanks.

        Joshua Cook

        03/28/2012 at 10:27 PM

      • Excellent point Josh.

        Sent from my iPhone

  10. Hello

    You suggested:”This is what I would like to do. First, I want to do a post that covers the biblical basis for the Augustine teaching of original sin. I want to show what the Bible says about this from a view that embraces original sin. I will cite both Calvinist and Arminians who hold to the teaching of original sin including Arminius. Then I want to look at the doctrine from a critical viewpoint. I want to use theologians and even some bloggers who reject the teaching. I want to see if the exegesis of biblical texts will indeed uphold or reject original sin.”

    Or you could save yourself a whole lot of reading, and just volunteer to babysit two or three toddlers for a morning.

    I have taught our children to read, count and tie their shoelaces. I never had to teach them to lie, steal, punch, quarrel or answer back to me.

    I like reading from the well-known theologian, Professor Experience.

    Anthea

    03/29/2012 at 2:59 AM

  11. Sola Scriptura! I am excited to see your exegesis of the issue.

    Beans

    03/29/2012 at 11:11 AM

  12. You are right that original sin in the sense of inheriting Adam’s guilt is a false doctrine. Yet as far as Augustine and Pelagius you are clearly confused.

    #1, Pelagius was responding to Augustine. Augustine taught that because we inherit Adam’s sin it is not possible to obey God at all until some magic wand called grace gets waved. So he prayed “First give me the grace to do it then command whatever you want.” Notice, to Augustine, ‘grace’ means ‘ability’.

    So Pelagius responds that gave already gave us the ‘capacity’ to do his commands when he created us and we did not lose it in the ‘fall’. This is, of course, true.

    Now Augustine claimed Pelagius taught that man could live a sinless life and without ‘grace’ to boot, but that’s just the spin of a meanspirited enemy of the truth. Of course Augustine the politician semit-Gnositc fatalist would misrepresent his opponent. Duh.

    And as for any debate about the ability to live sinless, this even all took place with Coelestius not Pelagius, assumign that Augustine even correctly reports what Coelestius said, which I doubt.

    reyjacobs

    03/29/2012 at 4:30 PM

  13. You are right that original sin in the sense of inheriting Adam’s guilt is a false doctrine. Yet as far as Augustine and Pelagius you are clearly confused.

    #1, Pelagius was responding to Augustine. Augustine taught that because we inherit Adam’s sin it is not possible to obey God at all until some magic wand called grace gets waved. So he prayed “First give me the grace to do it then command whatever you want.” Notice, to Augustine, ‘grace’ means ‘ability’.

    So Pelagius responds that gave already gave us the ‘capacity’ to do his commands when he created us and we did not lose it in the ‘fall’. This is, of course, true.

    Now Augustine claimed Pelagius taught that man could live a sinless life and without ‘grace’ to boot, but that’s just the spin of a meanspirited enemy of the truth. Of course Augustine the politician semit-Gnositc fatalist would misrepresent his opponent. Duh.

    reyjacobs

    03/29/2012 at 4:30 PM

  14. Further, Jesus says “A good man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth good things; an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil things.” I.e. Some men are good — some men are evil. Everyone is not evil. Everyone is not good. But to that egomaniac, Paul, who thinks he is God (“who are you, oh man, to reply against God?” I’m not, Paul, just replying against Paul the MAN) — to that maniac, I say, it is that all men are evil “There is none that doeth good, no not one.” May Paul burn in hell forever!

    reyjacobs

    03/29/2012 at 4:34 PM

    • I’m not sure I follow what you mean by attacking Paul. Are you joking? Or are you serious?

      • When Jesus says that a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, that God makes the sun to shine on the good and the bad, that God sends the rain on the just and the unjust, that the kingdom of heaven is like a man casting a net into the sea and catching all kinds of fish both good and bad…and then Paul says we’re all evil and nobody can do any good and there is no such thing as righteousness other than fake righteousness via imputation, then either Paul is joking or he’s a false apostle. So next time I read this stuff in Paul, you tell me, should I laugh?

        reyjacobs

        03/29/2012 at 6:59 PM

      • I disagree.

      • I figured you would. But this is one reason I’m glad to live today rather than during the Reformation. I’m sure it would have been me Calvin would have burned at the stake or that Luther would have drowned in mockery of believer’s baptism. But in the New World, I don’t have to play it coy like Erasmus and toe the line, stepping up to saying that Paul misuses a bunch of Old Testament passages in Romans but not coming out and saying it. For example, in the Diatribe on Free Will, Erasmus says that the passage “Esau I hated” “seems to only have to do with temporal punishments not eternal salvation or damnation.” In other words, Paul misuses the passage. But Erasmus lived during the Reformation. He couldn’t come out and say that, only imply it. I can say. Paul did misuse the passage as he misused every passage in Romans 9. For example, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” is actually “I will show favor to whom I will wshow favor” and its from the story where God is giving Moses a glimpse of his “hinder side” as a special favor — it also has nothing to do with salvation ro damnation or predestination! Erasmus could point that out too — as Arminians are also wont to do — as John Locke might do — but today, I can just come out and say what you all fear to say (for many of you might as well still be living in the middle ages the way your church leaders control you) and I can say Paul maliciously misuses this story from the Torah which is only about God justifying giving a special vision to Moses “I will show favor to whom I will show favor” not about denying grace to anyone to damn them. Again, the passage “I could have killed you with my plagues but for this cause ***I spared you*** [usually mistranslated ‘raised thee up’]….” this does not mean God showed Pharaoah no mercy but that he showed him alot of mercy!!! Contrary to Paul’s claim, God didn’t withhold mercy to harden Pharoah but hardened him by mercy — Paul is twisting the OT as usual.

        reyjacobs

        03/29/2012 at 7:53 PM

      • I disagree again. Paul is not using Malachi 1:3 to teach unconditional election unless you hold that view as held by Calvinists. We Arminians believe that Paul is building his case against the Jewish people as a race in relation to the inclusion of the Gentiles. For more on this, see William Klein’s book, The New Chosen People. In Romans 9, Paul uses Pharaoh and the examples of others whom He choose to show that God has the right to choose to bring the Gentiles into the Church and exclude the Jews based on their lack of faith.

  15. “I disagree again. Paul is not using Malachi 1:3 to teach unconditional election”

    Read it again, and again, again, and again, and again. You asked me deparately “What are you?” as if I were a space alien or something. I was an Arminian for a long long time. But throguh constant debate with the Calvinists it became clear to me that Romans 9 does teach their doctrine and that Arminian interpretation of Romans 9 is nothing but a half step. We know all these passage mean something other, even opposite, of what Paul is making them mean, and as Arminians we feel content to point that out, or you do–I never did. Pointing out that the passages means something other than what Paul uses it for without saying clearly “Paul is twisting the OT” was always frustrating for me. So I gave up on that. I admit freely that Paul is a lying scumbag. You can thank the Calvinists for that.

    “We Arminians believe that Paul is building his case against the Jewish people as a race in relation to the inclusion of the Gentiles.”

    Which is laughable, because including the Gentiles does not require excluding the Jews. Therefore the double predestination that Paul is teaching here is unnecessary if your view is correct. The reality is that the Calvinists are right about Paul’s INTENT and you are right about REALITY. That is, Paul is teaching Calvinism, yet Calvinism is false and Paul is a false teacher.

    reyjacobs

    03/29/2012 at 8:08 PM

    • Look at Romans 9:1-5. Clearly Paul is not viewing individual election unto salvation here. Where in verses 1-5 do we find him speaking of individual salvation or even salvation at all? He is countering the Jewish argument that they are the people of God simply by being Jewish. He is countering that argument by showing that God has brought in the Gentiles because of their disobedience (9:23-10:4). He develops this further in Romans 10 where he speaks of the preaching of the gospel and faith (vv. 10-17). In chapter 11 he speaks of the Jews being grafted back into the house of God through faith (vv. 11-32). This is about Israel. Not about individual election unto salvation.

      • Not all the Jews are excluded nor all the Gentiles included, thus he is talking about individuals not groups. Look, if Paul isn’t saying what it looks like he’s saying, then he’s just an illiterate writer who is incapable of getting his point accross. In any case his idiotic Romans and Galatians cause more harm to Christianity and the world than any other books ever written.

        reyjacobs

        03/29/2012 at 8:23 PM

      • I disagree. Praise God for Paul of Tarsus (1 Timothy 1:15).

  16. reyjacobs

    When you read Romans 9, do you read with 10-11? How do you read those three chapters?

    Russ

    rnieman

    03/30/2012 at 9:15 AM

    • Of course I read Romans 9-11 together. But that’s just the problem. Read together its obvious how contrived and wrong Pauline theology is. The Jews are all going to hell for not believing Jesus is the Messiah, and God is holding them in blindness (Ok, I threw in 2 Cor 4 there) to make it so, but someday they’ll all be saved anyway (or at least, the ones alive when that day comes). Its insane. It proves Christianity as taught by the churches to be false. Jesus, himself, after all did not preach “Good news! Adam sinned and damned you to hell for eternity — but don’t worry, I’m going to commit suicide and thus save you, if you’ll believe I’m the Messiah and properly define the Trinity!” No, he preached “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” and in one gospel when he sends the apostles out to preach it says “he sent them to preach the gospel” whereas in another the same event is described as “they went forth preaching that men should repent” — the gospel of Paul is not the gospel of Christ, for Christ’s gospel was that God will accept repentance and forgive us, not that all the Jews will go to hell for not recognizing him as the Messiah or that Christians will go to hell for not properly defining the Trinity or whatever. The church has invented to itself a new gospel, and its incoherent.

      reyjacobs

      03/30/2012 at 4:27 PM

    • I approved Reyjacobs reply to you but will limit him from here on. He is not interested at all in a cordial debate. He reminds me of false converts who I have engaged in when sharing my faith. Their disdain is not worth arguing with. If I were you Russ, I would shake the dust off my feet and move on (Matthew 10:14).

  17. Thanks Roy, I will take your advice. Thanks for your post

    rnieman

    03/30/2012 at 5:14 PM


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