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Original Sin: Affirming with Kenneth Grider

In our ongoing look at the issue of original sin, we have looked at two Calvinist theologians who affirmed original sin and now I want to turn toward Arminians who affirm original sin.  Today we will examine what Dr. Kenneth Grider taught about original sin in his book, A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology.  Dr. Grider was a good Arminian theologian though I disagree with his views on inerrancy (he denies and I affirm) and his views on election (he holds to corporate only).  We first will see how Grider defines original sin before he turns to biblical justification for the teaching.

Theological Terms for Adamic Depravity

1.  Original Sin.  The term does not refer to the original act of rebellion against God but refers to the state of sin in us due to that original act of sin on Adam’s part.  The term “sin” here is misleading as well.  It does not refer to an act of disobedience but a state.  In this case, Christ has made it possible for us not to be guilty because of this one sin but this doesn’t mean that we are not born in a state of sin.  As John Wesley noted, no one will go to eternal hell for this sin alone.

2.  Inherited Depravity.  This term is also unfortunate in that we are not born with sin in our genes but in our solidarity with Adam who represented us badly (Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).  Scripture nowhere teaches that this racial detriment is ours because of our parents.  It is best to think of our state as “Adamic depravity” rather than “inherited depravity.”

Dr. Grider answers some objections about original sin.  First, is the doctrine unfair?  He points out that Charles Finney rejected original sin because he believed it to be unfair and that God only holds us accountable for sins of the will.  We will look at Finney later but Finney held that sin was a violation of the moral law only and consist of a choice.  We are sinners because we choose to sin is Finney’s view.  Grider argues that Finney fails to see what Christ accomplished for the human race in Romans 5 by removing original guilt from us through His sacrifice while the Adamic nature is still in the children of men.  Secondly, the work of Christ provides a “free gift” in that He removed our guilt we had in Adam (Romans 5:16).  We are depraved but not guilty of Adam’s sin at  this point because of Christ.

Biblical Terms for Original Sin

1.  Indwelling Sin.  The New Testament uses this term twice and both in Romans 7 (vv. 17, 20).  The Greek is translated “sin that dwelleth in me” (KJV) or “sin which dwells in me” (RSV) or “sin which indwells me” (NASB).  This refers to a state of sin and not merely an act of sin.  Sin lives or houses itself in us.  Apart from Christ, we are temples of sin.

2.  The Law of Sin.  This is discussed in Romans 7:21, 23, 25 and Romans 8:2.  It is called a law, meaning that it is principle or state or condition.  Paul argues that he has been freed from it in Christ.

3.  The Sinful Nature.  This term is familiar to those reading from the NIV (1984) which uses the term “sinful nature” in Romans 8:3, 5, 8, 9.  This sinful nature is the same as the “sinful mind” referred to elsewhere in the chapter (v. 7).  The KJV uses the phrase “carnal mind” while the ESV has it “the mind set on the flesh.”  All of this, the sinful nature, the mind set on the flesh, the law of sin all come from Adam’s sin (Romans 5:12-21).  We can be free from it through Christ alone (Romans 8:2, 9).

4.  A “Worldly” Condition.  This is only found in 1 Corinthians 3.  The KJV uses the term “carnal” while the ESV has it “people of the flesh” and verse 3 says “flesh” (ESV).

5.  The Flesh.  From the Greek word “sarx.”  The term can simply mean “flesh” as in John 1:14 where it is used of Jesus becoming flesh.  The flesh itself is not sinful as Jesus was sinless from birth to death (1 Peter 2:22).  In Romans 8:4-9 Paul contrasts the flesh (sarx) with the Spirit.  He notes in Romans 8:8 that those who are in the flesh (sarx) cannot please God.  Galatians 5:17, 24 also contrasts the Spirit with the flesh.  Paul even discusses the deeds of the flesh (NASB) in Galatians 5:19-21.  In Galatians 5:24 Paul notes that only in Christ can we be set free from the flesh.

6.  The Sin.  Grider turns to his Wesleyan-Holiness roots here by looking at 1 John 1:7-8 and how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.  In this case, “the sin” is probably a better translation.  The blood of Jesus has been given to free us from the sin (John 1:29) and this would be us.  The sin is what is in us.  It is sinfulness, our desire to sin.  Only the blood of Jesus can free us from the sin that is in us.  This phrase “the sin” is our state as in John 8:21 where Jesus refers to our state and not merely our acts.  The power of the Holy Spirit can free us from “the sin” (Acts 15:8-9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23).

Conclusion

In closing, it is clear that Grider approves of the doctrine of original sin.  He quotes Arminius as having a favorable view of the doctrine.  Arminius stated that “the whole race fell when Adam sinned, and that due to that Fall we lost the knowledge of God, the knowledge of things pertaining to eternal salvation, the rectitude and holiness of the will, and the immortality of the body.”  While Grider says that Arminius taught that “the power of the willing” was not lost at the Fall, but that the power to will any good thing was lost.  Thus, if we will any good thing before our regeneration, such as to turn to Christ, we must be assisted by prevenient grace.

Grider also notes that Wesley considered those who rejected the teaching of original sin to be “a heathen still.”  We will look more at what Arminius and Wesley taught on original sin later.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

04/10/2012 at 9:00 AM

What About Those Who Reject Total Depravity?

There are some who identify with Arminians who reject total depravity.  Most of those who reject total depravity would not claim to be Arminian.  For instance, F. Lagard Smith who wrote the book, Troubling Questions for Calvinists…and the Rest of Us, rejects total depravity but does not claim Arminianism either since Arminians hold to a form of total depravity much like the Calvinistic view.  Some like Dr. Jack Cottrell, author of the classical Arminian view on election in the book, Perspectives on Election, and the author of the book The Faith Once For All, rejects the Calvinistic teaching on total depravity and the Augustine view of original sin.  Most theologians from the Restoration Movement such as Douglas Jacoby or John Mark Hicks reject both Calvinism and Arminianism (as far as I know) mainly because they reject total depravity.

The question then arises, should we accept those who reject total depravity as taught by John Calvin or James Arminius?  While Arminius was not in full agreement with Calvin or total depravity (with regard to the loss of free will), Arminius did teach the traditional Augustine view that we are born depraved.  Arminius would not doubt agree that we are born sinful and that our only hope is the grace of God to move upon us for salvation.  Most Restoration teachers including Alexander Campbell, I believe, would reject such a teaching.  Dr. Jack Cottrell, for instance, teaches that we are not born “sinful” or that we are born totally depraved but rather we are born in a state of grace, saved if you will.  Because of the flesh and the world and the devil, we sin and at that point we are guilty of our own sins and thus in need of a Savior who is Christ the Lord.  In his book, The Faith Once For All, Dr. Cottrell lays out his viewpoint not just from logic but from the Scriptures themselves.  Cottrell examines all the major passages about original sin including Psalm 51:5 and Romans 5:12-21.  Dr. Cottrell believes that the Augustine view of original sin is not only illogical but unbiblical.

For me, the bottom line issue is what does the Scriptures say?  I respect what Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, Henry, or Wesley had to say about biblical passages but the main issue for the disciple of Jesus is what does the Scriptures teach.  We can learn much from great theologians in the Church even if we don’t fully agree with one another.  Yet should we draw the line in the sand and deny people salvation based on their rejection of original sin?  Jack Cottrell, for example, does teach that we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He denies that works obtain salvation or that we can obtain salvation by living sinless (since this is impossible).  What he denies is that infants are born sinners.  He believes that babies are born innocent of any transgressions of God’s Law and therefore are not judged for their sins since they have not sinned.  They are born in a state of what he calls “original grace” as Adam and Eve were in Genesis 1-2 before the Fall.  Jesus reversed the curse (Galatians 3:13-14) and now we are born innocent of sin.  After we reach an age of accountability before God and we sin, we then are held guilty for Adam’s sin.  No, says Cottrell, but for our sins are we held accountable (Ezekiel 18).

Some say that such a view is nothing more than semi-Pelagain.  Cottrell prefers “pre-Augustinian” as the correct view.  He believes that Augustine overrated to the Pelagian errors.  He believes that Calvin was nothing more than the teachings of Augustine preached anew.  In his estimation, Arminius did not move further enough from Calvin and Augustine.  He believes that Campbell did.

My point is not to really debate the issue.  I do find many of Cottrell’s views appealing.  You are free to read his books and examine them with the Scriptures but I believe that Cottrell does a good job of seeking to build his case for his rejection of original sin from the Scriptures and not from theologians who agree with him.  My point in writing this is simply to acknowledge that we must always preach Jesus as the Savior and seek to glorify Him.  Salvation is not found in Arminianism or Calvinism or any other isms but in the Person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).  Jesus is fully alive right now and He sits at the right hand of God.  We can pray to the Father because of Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16) and we can be saved because of Jesus and His sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Salvation is not found in a church or a denomination or a movement or in a creed but in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must know Him (Philippians 3:9-11).  Jesus said that eternal life is found in knowing God personally (John 17:3).  Salvation is not found in crossing every T or dotting every I.  It is found in the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12).  He alone is our Mediator before God (1 Timothy 2:3-6).  I am thankful that Jesus saves sinners (1 Timothy 1:15) and not Baptists or Pentecostals or Arminians or any thing else.  He just saves sinners who come to Him and acknowledge that they have sinned and need His forgiveness (1 John 1:7-10).

Praise God for Jesus!

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