Sunday, July 08, 2007

Recent Discussion On Original Sin

The following is taken from a recent exchange I had on this blog with an Eastern Orthodox adherent which touched on several different topics. For the full unedited discussion, see here.

----------'s foundational problem is not guilt, but death.

I disagree. Death is the result of sin and guilt. This means that sin and guilt are more foundational than death itself.

You, however, inherited not guilt, but death, and because of that you sin (precisely opposite of Adam).

Again, I disagree. If we were all counted as sinners from Adam onward as Romans 5:19 explicitly states, then the problem for us is the same as Adam and not the opposite. If we were counted as sinners, then we were indeed counted guilty.

Your view of the atonement only addresses the symptoms (sin and guilt) and not the problem (death).

But since we do in fact inherit sin and guilt then these are indeed the problems and death is the symptom.

Go up 7 verses to 5:12. I sin because I have death in me, separation from God, which makes me fill the emptiness in my imago Dei with the emptiness of sin and can then be labelled a sinner.

I did. I find no support for your contentions there because of how Romans 5:12 reads. The latter half of the verse explicitly states that "death spread to all men, because all sinned". Death due to sin. Thus, as I have stated previously, death is the result of sin and guilt and not vice-versa.

Human nature is good, because God created it so,...

It was "good" only when God first created it. But as far as all men go, I have seen no scriptural warrant to suppose that human nature is good especially when explicit statements within holy writ state otherwise (Romans 3:10-12).

What sin has a dead baby committed?

Don, your question does not address the actual wording of Romans 5:12. Thus, a better question would be, "how is eastern orthodoxy's view of man's nature compatible with the actual wording of Romans 5:12?" Indeed, how is your contention that sin and guilt are not passed to all men thru Adam compatible with Psalm 51:5 where David says that he was a sinner from birth? How about Psalm 58:3 where it states that the wicked go astray from birth and that they speak lies from the womb?

Human nature is GOOD because Christ assumed it in the incarnation.

Again, there is no reason to accept this line of reasoning especially when verses that have been brought forward here testify against your notion of human nature being basically good.

...otherwise He could not destroy death for us, which is the root of sin.

Again, there is no reason to believe that death is the root of sin when you have not dealt with the actual wording of certain texts of scripture that contradict your assertions.

You start with the conception that we have something, some substance called sin and guilt that we are born with.

No Don, I am merely taking Romans 5:12 for what it explicitly states. The only presupposition I am bringing to the text is that the scriptures are the highest authority for determining tradition and doctrine.

I contend that in Romans 5:12 it is expressed that we lack something, an emptiness of something that should be there (death), and that is what causes us to sin and thereby become guilty.

But again Don, your contention is just a restatement of what you think the text means. But there is an obvious disconnect between the wording of the text and what you keep insisting it means. And until you overcome this disconnect, you will not be successful in your stated goal of showing me the fallacy of sola scriptura.

I'll repeat: Is a dead baby guilty? A dead fetus?

You already know the answer to this question Don. Yes, infants are guilty by way of Adam's sin. There is nothing in the texts that we have looked at thus far that suggests otherwise.

Hyperbole. Even you'll admit that a fetus doesn't speak lies in the womb. Do you think David committed sin as a newborn infant?

Let's grant for the sake of argument that you are right. Psalm 51:5 and 58:3 are hyperbole. Now, a hyperbole is a "A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect, as in I could sleep for a year or This book weighs a ton" (per the American Heritage Dictionary). Given the examples in the provided definition the statements made by David still support my position. David's point in saying that he is a sinner from birth is communicating the fact that he is counted guilty as a sinner because of Adam. This is more clearly expressed in David's statement about telling lies in the womb. A baby isn't literally speaking lies inside the womb but is in fact a liar because of his sin nature. It is it's nature to speak lies. Indeed, I had always heard it said that children are not taught to lie. They simply do it as soon as they learn to speak. Since becoming a parent myself I have personally found this to be true. Hyperbole only exagerates a point being made and that point being, namely, we are counted as sinners from Adam onward and are thus guilty as Adam was guilty. Nowhere do these verses even hint at your stated views here. So in light of all this, I conclude that positing hyperbole for these verses is no help to you.

The problem comes from variant translations of Romans 5:12...and so death passed upon all men, because of which all have sinned. The West has always translated "eph'ho pantes hemarton" as "in whom all sinned". The East has always seen the preceeding word thanatos (death) as modifying "eph 'ho, so the East translates the phrase as "because of which (death) all have sinned." The West and the East both have legitimate translations, but with drastically different outcomes soteriologically. So when the East reads this verse they read:

"...and so death passed upon all men, because of which all have sinned."

Which varient translations are you referring to? I personally own about six different translations and they all read the same. I also checked several other translations online and found more of the same. Also, your statement about the east and west having legitimate tranlations is a bit odd. That is, both cannot be right since they lend to two opposing viewpoints. Either one translation is right or, neither is right. And it seems to me that the only reason that you would raise a translational issue here is so that you can ease the tension between your view and the actual wording of the text. Also, the "western translation" of Romans 5:12 agrees in wording with Romans 5:19. I find this to be highly significant in determining which interpretation to apply to v.12

"and so death passed upon all men,"

Notice, death passed to all men.

Yes, death passed to all men. It was never my argument that it didn't. Death is a necessary consequence of sin per God's decree. So I do not see how this particuliar clause in 5:12 can be a problem for my view.

"for that all have sinned:"

Which comes after you have recieved death from Adam. You recieved death, THEN you sinned as a consequence of death, just like the passage says.

Well, since you didn't state which translation you are referencing here, I'll go ahead and assume that this is the KJV since the wording is identical. Now, this clause is the focal point of our dispute in regards to Romans 5:12 and I can see why you would reference the KJV here. The wording can lend itself to your view. The problem I see with the KJV's rendering however is that the clause could go both ways. That is, the KJV is ambiguous. Indeed, you seem to have alluded to this when you stated that the east and west have legitimate translations. At any rate, I have in front of me several other translations that are not ambiguous in how they read at v.12 For instance:

"...because all sinned..." -NASB

"...because all sinned..." -NIV

"...because all sinned..." -ESV

"...because all sinned..." -NKJV

"...because all have sinned... -NRSV

These examples provide clear, unambiguous attestation to my viewpoint, namely, that death spread to all men *because* all sinned in Adam. This is further strengthened by 5:19 that states the many were made sinners by the one man's disobedience. And at this point, I would also submit Romans 6:23 where it is stated that "...the wages of sin is death...". A clear causal relationship is presented by Paul in 6:23 just as he did in the previous verses we just looked at. Thus, when all these scriptures are considered (including those from the Psalms), I am forced to conclude that my viewpoint is, by far, the strongest viewpoint scripturally speaking.

Where is the mention of guilt in the entire chapter of Romans 5?

Guilt does not need to be specifically referenced in Romans 5. It is implicit in Paul's statements about sin. That is, if I am a sinner, then I am guilty. Likewise, if I am guilty, then I am a sinner. There is no such thing as a guiltless sinner.

Materializing sin into sperm is nowhere to be found in scripture.

And it isn't necessarily my argument that sin is materialized in this way. You seem to be asking me to substantiate a naturalistic mechanism for the transference of sin but I don't even see this as a reasonable request. What if I asked you to substantiate the infusion of the soul to the human body by way of naturalistic mechanism? Would you consider that a reasonable request? Can you explain the incarnation itself by way of a naturalistic mechanism? How about the resurrection? As it is, I have no problem with appealing to mystery here. I simply do not know how sin and guilt is transfered.

You assume there is a thing, a substance, an "object" that is sin that makes it into humans and makes them bad.

What sin is or isn't, is a secondary issue to the primary point of dispute, namely, the correct interpretation of Romans 5:12. In other words, if Romans 5 is in fact teaching that all men are counted as sinners through Adam, then this is what we should believe. Only then do we try to discern just what sin is and how it is transferred.

You should embrace the idea of God fully venting His unquenchable wrath on a deceased infant if you are to be consistent.

Why should I? There is no consensus in Reformed theology that I'm aware of on the question of what happens to those who die in infancy nor do I personally take a dogmatic stance on this issue. I simply trust in my God that He will work all things for the benefit of His people.



Anonymous said...

Good post. Death is without a doubt the result of sin and not the other way around. I personally believe that this brings up problems for Calvinism, but I will leave that for another time. You do however believe that because we are "dead in sin" we will continue to sin right? So while I agree with your assessment, I can also see some truth in what that brother was saying.

God Bless

J. Matthew Cleary said...


"You do however believe that because we are "dead in sin" we will continue to sin right? So while I agree with your assessment, I can also see some truth in what that brother was saying."

Well, I don't see how the Reformed notion of 'dead in sin' can be equivocated to anything that Don argued for. When Calvinists refer to man's deadness in sin they are typically talking about man's inability and fallen nature. Don argued for man's basic goodness and would probably deny inability as defined by Calvinists.

Anonymous said...

Justin says...

Matt, I created a Google account, but it won't let me in. So, I just have to stick with what I've been doing.


Great article. You know, it reminded me of a sermon I heard on the radio that talked about a secular group studying infants, and found out that most, if not all, exhibited some form of bad behavior, ex. jealousy, fighting, greed, etc.

Kangeroo, you say that death/sin poses a problem for Calvinism. However, not only do I think otherwise, but I also think that it poses a problem for Arminianism. By saying that, "God didn't intend for sin to enter the world" and yet, here's sin, is to deny such passages like Job 42:2.

But, as you said, that is for another time.

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin,

Actually I was thinking of something quite different when I said that the fact that sin causes death creates problems for Calvinism. I was talking about implications with regards to the Calvinists understanding of the "ordo salutis". But, again, that is for a later discussion and a can of worms that I am not willing to dive into right now.

However, I am a little confused by your reference to Job. 42:2. I do not believe that sin took God by surprise, nor that sin has in any way thwarted God's purpose. I only deny that God caused sin, or ordained it in such a way that it took place of necessity.

God has always desired to have a genuine relationship with mankind. While Adam's sin changed the way in which that would need to take place, God's purpose in creation was still realized through the reconciliation of Christ's death.

The Seeking Disciple said...

Right on brother. I am glad to see you standing firm for truth.

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

"You, however, inherited not guilt, but death, and because of that you sin (precisely opposite of Adam)."

Death is the result of Adam's sin. But can our sin be the result of that death? in Hebrews 2:15, Paul says that Jesus came to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage." What did the fear of death bring them into bondage to? SIN! This guy above has a point. Why are people greedy? They know they will die, so they want to get in all the possessing they can while they have time. Why do people participate in unlawful sexual acts? Again, fear of death. They know they will die, they can die at any moment, so rather than being patient and waiting to go about things the right way, they jump the gun and do things the wrong way. Death includes not only the literal final death of the body, but the creeping death of the body degenerating over time. Hence Abraham sinned in committing adultery with Hagar, and why? Because he was afraid that his reproductive system would die before he was able to have a child, since Sarah his lawful wife was barren. Indeed, heresy also can be attributed to the fear of death, because the heretic wants to be comfortable in this life, hence he makes God's word lax so that he can enjoy all that he wants to enjoy in this life before he dies without having to feel guilty. John lists one of the things that makes us desire to sin as "the pride of life." The Manichean notion that everyone is born guilty of Adam's sins (Augustine, the originator of the theory got it from Manicheanism, the Mormonish cult he was part of prior to becoming a Roman Catholic) this Manichean notion that all men are born spiritually dead is not only disproven by Romans 7:9 where Paul shows he was born spiritually alive, but also by Job who took care of the orphans and guided the widow from his mother's womb. Again, speaking of spiritual death, God says in Ezekiel 18:20 "the soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father the guilt of the son."

Anonymous said...

The doctrine of inherited sin is Satanism. Augustine began the great apostasy when he brought it into Catholicism from Manichean Gnosticism.

Anonymous said...

And Romans 5:12 is mistranslated. All the translations that say "because all have sinned" are biased mistranslations. The Greek phrase is EF W (EPI W) which means either "upon which" (clearly not applicable here) or "because of which." To translate simply "because" is wrong because you are then ignoring the W which means "which."

It has to be translated, therefore, as follows:

"Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, even so death spread to all, because of which all have sinned"

Just as Heb 2:15 speaks of us being kept in bondage to sin by the fear of death, so here Paul indicates that our mortality is the cause of our sins (via the fear of death) and not that we (who did not exist) sinned in Adam.

Anonymous said...

If, given the postulates of Mongerism and Total Depravity in which Man can do Absolutely Nothing to further the cause of his own Salvation, then how can a True and Correct Bible, which would certainly further the cause of Salvation for many, possibly ever be published? Further, under the Postulates of Mongerism, Total depravity, etc., how do we even know that we have the correct books in the Bible?

I find that I have ONLY two choices, discard the Bible or discard Mongerism and Total Depravity.

Moderate Democrat said...


As Francois Turretin would argue, God is Providential []:

But [Scripture] is necessary hypothetically on account of the divine will, since it I seemed good to God, for weighty reasons, to commit his word to writing. For this reason [Scripture] has, by divine ordinance, been made so necessary that it pertains not only to the well-being of the church, but to its very being, so that now the church cannot exist without the Scripture.

In other words, if God found it necessarry to endow Man with Free Will in order to get a Bible published as He had intentioned, he would. Indeed, this is what Turretin realy meant when he ended his discourse with:
Therefore, God is not bound to the Scripture, but has bound us to it.