“Problems with Original Sin”Categories: Sermons
Believe it or not, brethren, we’ve finally come to the end of this half-hour study series. Because the goal of this is to equip you to study with people, I’ve had Jennifer include in the bulletin a sheet that you can fold in half and stick in your Bibles. It has an outline for every sermon in the series, with Scriptures. If you need a refresher on what to say about each point, the link at the top goes to a post on our church blog with links to each individual sermon. Hopefully, this will help y’all for years to come!
Also, all the way through this series, I’ve been saying that these studies are nothing more than introductions to some very complex topics. Never has that been truer than with this morning’s sermon. The doctrine of original sin is one of the foundations of Calvinism, and I could easily preach sermons on Calvinism until 2020 without running out of material! What I have to say this morning won’t be enough to convince Calvinists who really know their Bibles, but it might be a conversation-starter, and it could also be useful for somebody who has heard Calvinist teaching but doesn’t really understand the Scriptural basis of the argument. With these modest aims in mind, then, let’s turn to the Scriptures to explore three problems with original sin.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the doctrine of original sin is the idea that every human being inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden. We believe that all people die physically because of that sin, but Calvinists argue that every human being is also spiritually dead because of it. Thus, a newborn baby, minutes out of its mother’s womb, if it dies and is not baptized, will go to hell because it is stained by original sin.
This is an extremely powerful doctrine. If you accept it, it will change the way you read the entire Bible. However, there are some powerful reasons not to accept it. First, IT DENIES THE INNOCENCE OF CHILDREN. Look at the words of our Lord in Mark 10:13-16. Here, of course, we are looking at a situation that existed hundreds of years before anybody suggested the existence of original sin. None of these children have been baptized. The boys would have been circumcised, but there is nothing in the Law of Moses that says that the purpose of circumcision is to take away sin.
Nonetheless, Jesus says of these children that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. They don’t need His grace to enter that kingdom. They’ve got it already. They don’t have to be baptized as children so that they can receive the kingdom like us. Instead, we must receive the kingdom like them.
Clearly, in the Lord’s eyes, there is not a thing wrong spiritually with any of the children He is blessing. This lines up with our own experience. Even though children can certainly disobey, all of us who have been parents or even older siblings know that they don’t have a true consciousness of sin. On their own, they are entirely innocent.
What Calvinists would have us believe, though, is that even though they have committed no wrong themselves, they stand condemned regardless because of inherited sin. Unless they just happen to be born into a family that believes in baptizing infants, if they die before maturity, they will be eternally condemned.
There are many who question the existence of God because they can’t understand how a loving God would allow children to die. However, the death of innocent children pales in comparison to the horror of millions of children who had never done anything wrong being sentenced to hell for what somebody else did. That, brethren, could only be the work of a God who is not loving, not merciful, and not even just!
This, indeed, takes us to the second major problem with the doctrine of original sin. IT HOLDS US ACCOUNTABLE FOR OTHERS’ SIN. I think there are fairness problems associated with that, but even more than that, God says outright that it’s not how His justice operates. Here, let’s consider Ezekiel 18:1-4.
This text tells us that in Ezekiel’s time, the Jewish exiles were playing the blame game. The proverb that God cites means, “Our fathers were the ones who sinned, but we were the ones who got punished.” That’s awfully convenient if you don’t want to admit your own guilt. You can just blame your bad circumstances on Dad.
In response, though, God says that the soul who sins will die. The rest of the chapter elaborates on this theme. If the father is wicked, he will die. If the son is wicked, he will die. However, a righteous son will not bear the punishment due a wicked father.
This presents a massive problem for anyone who wants to argue for original sin. My own father was a faithful Christian, but even if he had been a scoundrel, I still wouldn’t be punished because of what he had done. That being the case, how could I or any of us possibly be stained with guilt because of what our ultimate ancestor Adam did? If the son will not die for the sins of the father, why would any of us die because of the sins of our many-times-great-grandfather?
Of course, practically speaking, this doesn’t help me much. I may not be guilty because of the sin of Adam, but I am guilty because of the sins I’ve committed myself. However, it is good to know that God will only hold us accountable for what we’ve done!
Finally, the doctrine of inherited sin is problematic because IT MINIMIZES THE POWER OF CHOICE. There are many texts that emphasize the importance of free will, but let’s look at Hebrews 12:25. This passage offers us a stark choice. Either we hear the One who warns us from heaven and live, or we refuse Him and die.
To my thinking, it simply doesn’t make much sense for the Holy Spirit to tell us such things if our eternal destiny is predominantly determined by things other than our own choices. It reminds me of a soccer coach I saw once—not my children’s coach, thankfully—back in Illinois. He told all of the five-year-olds on his team that he would give them five dollars if they could beat him in a race across the field. For the first three-quarters of the race, he dogged it and made them think they could beat him, but in the last quarter, he raced ahead and made sure none of them would collect. What a jerk!
If God tells us that our actions matter, but they really don’t matter because we’re doomed no matter what, as far as I’m concerned, He’s no better than that jerk soccer coach. Frankly, that doesn’t sound like the God I know from the Bible. His standards are high, and it is with difficulty that even the righteous are saved, but He will reward everyone according to what they have done. If my soul is lost, I can be sure that it’s not because of a choice somebody else made. It’s because of a choice that I made.