The Age of Accountability: Original Sin

8/8/2010I guess we have to start with the doctrine of original sin. The term is used in different senses by different people, but regardless of the vocabulary you choose, the idea is that Adam’s sin in inherited, so that even infants are damned until baptized.

Historical roots

Original sin is often associated with Calvinism, but in fact the doctrine is much older than Calvin and is taught by the Catholic Church among many other non-Calvinistic churches. However, the Eastern Orthodox Churches reject the teaching, while still practicing infant baptism. The Orthodox did not formally separate from Roman Catholics until about 1001 AD, showing that original sin did not become accepted doctrine until long after infant baptism.

Infant baptism arises, not from the doctrine of original sin, but the fear that a child who dies young may be lost if not baptized. After all, until modern times — until the advent of antibiotics and modern medicine — the death rate for infants was very high. It’s easy to see why early Christians wanted the comfort of baptizing their children as infants.

The earliest uninspired Christian sources treat infants as saved. For example, Hermas writes (Similitudes IX.xxix.1; circa 135 AD),

Those who believed are such these: they are like innocent infants, in whose hearts no wickedness enters and who do not know what evil is but always remain in innocence.

(Translations are from Early Christians Speak by Everett Ferguson). According to the Epistle of Barnabas 6:11 (circa 130 AD),

Since he renewed us in the forgiveness of sins, he made us into another image, so as to have the soul of children, as if he were indeed refashioning us.

Thus, Second Century writers considered infants the model of innocence — a state to which the saved are restored. However, infant baptism developed fairly early, with Irenaeus making the earliest reference in Against Heresies II.xxii.4. Tertullian opposed the practice, but that means the practice was common enough to merit his condemnation. It’s not until Origen that anyone claimed that infant baptism is apostolic in origin.

By the time of Augustine, infant baptism was so well established that the practice could be used as a justification for original sin — why would we baptize infants but for inherited sin?

You have to realize that at the same time infant baptism was evolving, many were arguing that baptism should be delayed as long as possible — until someone was on his deathbed, to secure the maximum benefit of this special, one-time forgiveness of all sins. You see, over time, the church had begun to teach that forgiveness of certain sins was very difficult if not impossible after baptism. Therefore, the smart move was to delay baptism as long as possible.

It seems likely that deathbed baptisms ended when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. You had to be a Christian to be a citizen, making deathbed baptisms much less attractive. And as citizenship became combined with Christianity, infant baptism seemed more and more natural.

Ferguson argues from inscriptions found on the graves of infants that the real origin of infant baptism is not original sin — a doctrine that developed much later — but the premature deaths of children. Parents whose children became deathly ill prevailed on church official to baptize their children — just in case. And over time, the precaution became standard — but not until the Fifth Century.

Now, this bit of history argues very strongly that original sin is not an adequate justification for infant baptism. Indeed, the idea that we might be damned because of Adam’s sin has a definite air of artificiality — a post hoc rationalization — even though there are, as always, verses that might be cited in support of the doctrine.

Proof texts

And we have to visit those verses, because they bear strongly on the age of accountability question.

(Psa 51:5 ESV) 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

(Rom 5:12-13 ESV) 12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–  13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.

(1Co 15:22 ESV)  22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

In Rom 5:12-13 and 1 Cor 15:22, Paul’s point is that all suffer physical death because of Adam — not that all are damned from birth. It’s obvious from the context. “Death” is not a euphemism for damnation in those passages.

Psa 51 is more problemmatic, but we have to consider the context and figurative nature of David’s declarations. Psalm 51 is David’s plea for forgiveness after Nathan charged him with adultery and murder. He wasn’t asking for forgiveness from Adam’s sin. He was, rather, very concerned with having his own sins forgiven, and so it would hardly make sense that David wants to declare that all men are sinners because of sin inherited from Adam. It just doesn’t fit the point of the psalm.

(Psa 51:1-4 ESV) Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!  3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

David’s plea for personal forgiveness for his own sins is quite clear.

(Psa 51:5 ESV) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

It would hardly make sense for David to declare that he’d inherited sin. But he might well argue that he was born with a sinful nature: all men sin. After all, he seems to argue, I’ve always been a sinner, and yet you’ve forgiven me in the past — even giving me your Spirit. Please do so again.

That interpretation fits the flow of thought and David’s situation. The idea that he inherited sin from Adam would have nothing to do with his sin with Bathsheba.

There are, of course, proof texts that go the other way —

(Jam 4:17 ESV) 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

(Luk 12:47 ESV)  47 And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating.

(John 9:41-1 ESV)  41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

(Psa 139:13-16 ESV)  13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.  15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.  16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

(Rom 7:9-11 ESV)  9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.  10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.  11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.

(Isa 7:16 ESV) 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.

(Mat 18:10 ESV) 10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

(2Sa 12:22-23 ESV)  22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’  23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”

We’ll come back to some of these verses in future posts. The final verse quoting David after the death of his son conceived with Bathsheba, strikes me as particularly convincing. And Ezekiel clearly repudiates any notion of inherited sin —

(Eze 18:1-20 ESV) The word of the LORD came to me:  2 “What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?  3 As I live, declares the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel.  4 Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

5 “If a man is righteous and does what is just and right–  6 if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity,  7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,  8 does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man,  9 walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully–he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD.

10 “If he fathers a son who is violent, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things  11 (though he himself did none of these things), who even eats upon the mountains, defiles his neighbor’s wife,  12 oppresses the poor and needy, commits robbery, does not restore the pledge, lifts up his eyes to the idols, commits abomination,  13 lends at interest, and takes profit; shall he then live? He shall not live. He has done all these abominations; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon himself.

14 “Now suppose this man fathers a son who sees all the sins that his father has done; he sees, and does not do likewise:  15 he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife,  16 does not oppress anyone, exacts no pledge, commits no robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,  17 withholds his hand from iniquity, takes no interest or profit, obeys my rules, and walks in my statutes; he shall not die for his father’s iniquity; he shall surely live.  18 As for his father, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother, and did what is not good among his people, behold, he shall die for his iniquity.

19 “Yet you say, ‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is just and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live.  20 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

This is very particular, detailed passage, argued in some depth. Ezekiel makes the same claim in chapter 28, speaking of the king of Tyre —

(Eze 28:15 ESV) 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.

Ezekiel says the king was blameless until he chose to be unrighteous.

In the next post, we’ll go deeper.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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92 Responses to The Age of Accountability: Original Sin

  1. Royce Ogle says:

    Of course children and others whose minds are not developed so that they can sin on purpose, that is willfully disobey while consciously at the same time rejecting the right way, are innocent before God.

    However, to deny their sinfulness is odd to me. I mean I have some of the best grandchildren there is and guess what? We didn't have to teach any of them to lie or be selfish, those moral flaws were standard equipment. If people are not born sinful why is it then that every last one of us will choose to do what is wrong? If we are born without a sinful nature why wouldn't at least some of us just always do everything right?

    Jeusus is set apart from every other human being because of the fact he was in every sense, spiritually and physically, God's son. He had no human father and thus did not have the bent toward disobedience.

    Our little children are sweet and innocent for a time, they don't know any better. But at some point when they do know better, their real identity's will be revealed and every one of them will premedatatedly do what they know is wrong. Whenever that point is, it differes with individuals depending on maturity and cognitive skills, they must then repent and appropriate for themselves the atonement of Jeus that had covered them in their childhood.


  2. Laymond says:

    " they must then repent and appropriate for themselves the atonement of Jeus that had covered them in their childhood."

    Royce, are you saying the "grace of God" only covers you when you don't need it. Or that your actions do play a part in your salvation.

  3. konastephen says:

    Agreed, Original Sin is not a good defense for infant baptism. I disagree, however, that Original Sin has ‘an air of artificiality’. Are we not making a straw man out of well established idea. Even Alexander Campbell seemed to have a good grasp of this concept (see his the Christian System, chapter VII), though he disparaged the term for all its misuse.

    We participate in a fallen humanity, the cause of this state was an original sin—Adam’s sin. As Augustine says, we still have free will (radical free will) (see On the Free Choice of the Will & And we can agree that all are responsible for personal sin. The issue of Original Sin is 'what is our state prior to baptism'. The other options from Original Sin are either that we are born morally good or neutral—both are fraught with problems. The two errors from path of Original Sin seem to be either moral perfectionism (Pelagius) or moral laxness (I’m good, you’re good). Read Alan Jacobs’ book on Original Sin…or else we blame culture around us (Rousseau).

    I guess the question is: are infants saved by grace, or do they not need saving? I think the later option is a little presumptious, denying our corporate and cosmic identity. Surely we are only responsible for our personal sins (whether we are aware of them or not), but perhaps were looking at this in too individual of a light. What if we talked about an Original Exile? That we are born into the Exile of Adam. The obvious problem with this is that it lends to people thinking that Christain parents will have Christian children (which is why I think Original Sin is a better term). The upshot of this is that it shows clearly how we can inherit a problem.

    I for one, hold to a view of believer’s baptism. I think it is the more defensible view. However, I understand that in less individualistic cultures infant baptism can hold great significance (akin to circumcision —though admittedly baptism was not meant to mirror this).

  4. Micah Cobb says:


    I hope to make a few comments later today, but right now I do not have the time. I just want to point out that to say that the Eastern Orthodox reject original sin is a (common) oversimplification.

    Here's a website that has excerpts from Kallitos Ware's *The Orthodox Church*, one of the most widely read introductions to Eastern Orthodoxy. Included is a section on the Orthodox view of Original Sin.

    As he makes clear, the Orthodox would reject the Calvinist's view of Original Sin. They reject total depravity. The Orthodox hold that humans inherit Adam's "corruption and mortality", but not his guilt.

  5. Jody B says:

    If Jesus was indeed tempted in all points as we are, I can assure you he was just as predisposed to sin as we are. He just didn't. To say that he did not have a bend toward disobedience is to say that he could not be tempted. I strongly disagree here.

  6. Hank says:

    Jody, I agree.

    Royce, you wrote: "If people are not born sinful why is it then that every last one of us will choose to do what is wrong?"

    Because our flesh is weak — just like the flesh of Adam and Eve (who were not born with any so-called "moral flaws"), and yet still sinned.

    Besides, if unforgiven sin separates from God (which it does), and if forgiveness is only for those who have an obedient faith in Christ (which it is), then if babies are sinful from birth — then they are lost.

    And why were the apostles trying to "reconcile" men back to God if they were in fact born lost?

    The doctrine that babies are born sinful before and without ever sinning (guilty of someone else's sin), is [JFG: inappropriate language deleted]

  7. Anonymous says:

    Here we go again with Hank …….

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hank, you just said that Royce and others who disagree with your interpretation about this are wicked and taught by Satan.

    Why don't you answer Royce's questions?

    If people are not born sinful why is it then that every last one of us will choose to do what is wrong? If we are born without a sinful nature why wouldn’t at least some of us just always do everything right?

  9. Terry says:

    You wrote, "(Jesus) had no human father and thus did not have the bent toward disobedience." I have heard that theory taught before, but I have not understood it. Are you saying that the "flesh" (or "sinful nature") is passed on to the next generation by the father's chromosomes but not the mother's? If not, what does that theory teach? Also, did you see it in a biblical passage (either explicitly or implied)? Thanks for your help with this.

  10. Anonymous says:

    The seed of the woman is the title for the Lord Jesus Christ in virgin birth. The Sin Nature Adam’s imputed sin is passed down through the man. Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Lamb of God had to be without spot or blemish. That doesn’t mean He wasn’t able to be tempted, the Incarnation required that the Son of God must have the ability to be tempted Philippians 2:7.

  11. Randall says:

    Hello Jay,
    You have made it plain that you affirm classic Arminianism i.e mankind is by nature totally depraved but though prevenient grace man is able to cooperate with the working of the HS and come to faith. (Please, please correct me if I have misrepresented your perspective.) It is more than evident from several of the recent comments here that Pelagianism is still very much alive and well in the CofC.

    One comment above contained these words: "If Jesus was indeed tempted in all points as we are, I can assure you he was just as predisposed to sin as we are."

    Randall (me) suggests that if Jesus ever looked after a woman and lusted he was not merely tempted to commit adultery, but had already done it in his heart . Thus he would not have been sinless. There is a difference between being tempted with something and actually wanting to do it, but we neither understand that nor teach it in the CofC.

    The orthodox view view is that Jesus had a complete human nature apart from sin. In the CofC the lack of understanding about the sinful nature of mankind is remarkable. And since we don't understand ourselves we don't appreciate what God has done for us.

    To be redundant: We don't know what we don't know and until we come to recognize what we don't know we won't make any effort to deal with it. Our anti theological bent has been to our detriment.

  12. Royce Ogle says:

    Laymond: There is never a time when everyone doesn't need the grace of God. And, in some sense everyone experiences God's grace. Not one of us deserves life and breath but the rain falls for the just and the unjust. Every good thing comes from the hand of a benevolent God, a gesture of grace. A small child doesn't know it is wrong to be selfish, or to lie, but a lie is a lie none the less.

    Jody B: Is it your view that God can sin? Or is it your view (you will not be alone…) that Jesus was not divine? To be tempted says nothing about the moral state of a person. Giving in to the temptation is what is sinful and exposes the moral bankruptsy of the person. I think we should exercise great care in how we talk about Jesus who was "God with us".

    Hank: You are so far out in left field I first decided to not respond but I'll try. (Brotherly kindness just ozzes from you, lol) Mankind was seperated from God in Adam's sin. God was in Christ reconciling man to God. Now we have been reconciled to God by the death of jesus. It is sort of like the slaves who were freed but until they knew about the legal freedom they had never left the plantation. You are right, the flesh is weak, precisely because of Adam's fall and the penalty is death passed to ALL men. That weakness of the flesh is the sin nature, or "natural" state of man, vs. the "spiritual" man who has been born again.

    Finally: Even in our society horrible crimes, like murder, are committed and because the perpitrator is not mentally able to know what he did is wrong we don't sentence them as we would a person who is mentally alert. We instead hospitalize them and try to help them The crime is still a crime, but punishment is witheld because of the person's lack of ability to understand their actions. Why is this so hard to understand in regard to children and the mentally ill concerning God's law and punishment or lack of it?

    My view might be wrong, I am not infallible. But it is not "wicked" or "Satanic".

    I would hope that we can keep emotions in check when we discuss issues that smarter men than all of us debated hundreds of years before we were born. There is no excuse for being rude and course. This is only a forum where Jay allows us to discuss biblical/spiritual concepts, it is not a war.


  13. Terry says:

    I may need to explain my question above. I am not questioning Jesus' deity, humanity, or sinlessness. Those doctrines are clearly taught in the Bible. My question deals with the idea that the sinful nature (or original sin) is transmitted genetically only from the father.

    I heard a preacher on the radio around the Christmas season teach that doctrine as he explained why Jesus could not have a human father. I had not heard that theory before.

    I have not noticed that explanation in the Bible, so I was wondering where it came from.

    This will sound strange, but if the theory is true, we may face an interesting future as reproductive technologies continue to advance. We could see the day when human cloning could produce children without biological fathers. Presumably, if this theory is true, those children will be born without original sin. (Of course, the theory may not be true. In that case, there is no theological problem here.)

    If anyone could answer my questions about this topic, I would appreciate it.

  14. Hank says:

    Some of you are trying to have it both ways. First you say that although infants do in fact sin, that they don't realize they are sinning and are therefore not held accountable. That for THEIR sins, they don't need forgiveness (which of course is never hinted at within the Bible). Yet, you also believe they are guilty of sin (their parents) even before they come out the womb and do anything at all. Why all the talk about not bieng guily for what they do and don't realize when you really believe they are in fact guilty of sins that they nevercommited. As if being conceived is against the law of God?

    Second, you same ones think that when a person sins….it is proof of the fact that they were born sinners. But, such an argument falls with the 1st man and woman to ever live. Because although they were born and creted just as equally free from sin as as the Lord himself — and yet they still were led astray by their fleshly desires and sinned. Why? Does that mean they were created sinful? If not, then your argument falls aprt at the fall.

    [JFG: inappropriate language deleted]

  15. Larry Short says:

    Royce, the reason children lie and other such things is that they see examples of that behaviour in their parents. They are innocent because they are copying without understanding, as pointend out like our legal definition of crime.
    In a sense because we are all raised by imperfect people, we are steeped in sin from birth. This can easily be David's plea.
    The infant baptism is [JFG: inappropriate language deleted] and should have been taught againist. Hovever if you lived in a time of plague, with kids dying all arround, you would want the best possible assurance for the child………
    Lots of practices in Catholicism and Orthodox are rooted in compromises for the scared concious of the people. Like meat offered to an idol was for the first century.

  16. hank says:

    And Royce, if I'm not mistaken, I believe this is the very subject that prompted you to write that long and emotinal response talking about how you would never engage in this here like this again. What changed?

  17. konastephen says:

    Not that anyone really cares about what Campbell said—but please read what he wrote on this subject.

    I agree with Randall above that Pelagianism is alive and well. While we may discard the history of past heresies as irrelevant for how we do church today (looking only to scripture), but we do so at our own peril.

    Let’s be clear about this: Original Sin does not teach that children inherit their parents sin. No, instead, and by virtue of birth, we participate in a fallen humanity because of an original sin.

    Ironically, the pessimistic view that we are worthy of damnation by default often leads to an optimism and trust in God’s goodness and grace. By way of contrast, the view that we are entitled to heaven by merit of youthful ignorance and innocence belittles our corporate human predicament and obfuscates the gulf between man and the Glory of God.

    Arguably. Original Sin is a much more biblical idea, like the doctrine of the Trinity, than say an ‘Age of Accountability’. So how did we get here…?

  18. Royce Ogle says:

    There are many place where the Bible makes a blanket indictment that "ALL" are sinners. And that "ALL" have sinned. A careful and thoughful reading of this passage (Romans 5:12–21) answers most of the questions we are discussing.

    Sin is not passed from generation to generation by genitics, but my the fact we are humans in like kind as Adam. Adam is represenative of all humans and in him all sin and die. The 2nd Adam, Jesus, was no ordaniry man. He was both God and man, but had no humand father, and no sin in the likeness of Adam. His life of perfect obedience and perfect sinlesness alone prove up his deity.

    The sin and its curse, death (both physically and spiritually) rests upon those whose represenative head is Adam. Those who put their trust in Jesus and depend on the claims of the gospel have a new federal head, the 2nd Adam, Jesus. In Adam all (who stay in Adam) die. In Christ all (all who are in Christ) live.

    Every normal, natural person, once they are old enough to understand morality, upon personal assesment will find that they are already sinful and corrupt. Paul said we are "by nature children of wrath" before we are in Christ. If we are born not "by nature children of wrath" as most of you believe it is very odd that very small infants show signs of rebellion against what is right, against the authority of their parents, and for many the first word they will say after "momma" will be "mine". Forgetting the Bible, the whole idea of the absense of a sinful nature from birth falls flat on its face just from logic. If all of the tens of millions of humans ever born were all born perfectly sinless, without any bent toward evil, does it not seem very odd that not one person took the high road of morality and lived a sinless life?

    When the Bible says "ALL" it does not mean "all except…" it simply means "ALL" are sinners.

    Hank. I simply changed my mind.


    I really believe that a careful, prayerful, reading of the passage, Romans 5:12–21, will shed light on much of what we are discussing.

  19. Hank says:

    Royce, again, Adamand Eve were created just as sinless as was the man Jesus Christ (everybody agrees with that, I am sure). Even still, they were tempted and sinned. Why?

    You see, the 1st man and woman offer proof positive that having fleshly and worldly desires (and acting out on them – "sinning") does not prove that one was created sinful. You must either argue that Adam was created sinful or give up the argument that sinning proves that one was created sinful.

    I believe that when Paul said "all" were sinners, he meant both Jew and Gentiles. Proof that he did not have in mind unborn babies lies in the fact that he also said "all" have sinned. Now, sinning is breaking Gods law is it not? Pray tell, how can a fetus break the law of God?

    Either Paul did not mean to include unborn babies when he wrote that "all" have broken Gods law or, if he did, please tell us how an unborn fetus can transgress the law of God and sin?

    Sin is sin and unforgiven sinners go to hell. Everyone of them. If aborted babies are in fact unforgiven sinners (even though they never sinned), than aborted infants go to hell.

    [JFG: inappropriate language deleted]

  20. konastephen says:


    I can understand that from anthropocentric standpoint sin is an act that makes one a sinner: that one must willfully sin before becomnig a sinner. While this, in part, is true, it doesn’t dimminish the fact that we are not entitled to heaven or reward. Mankind as a whole has a problem, we are fallen and in rebellion. A view from the perspective of the sovereignty of God should show that we all need grace. God is certainly able to show grace to babies.

    Even staunchly conservative calvanists believe that babies go to heaven…

  21. Guy says:

    This discussion is difficult to follow because the term "original sin" is being thrown around quite a bit without much definition and distinction. i've read about a "bent" or disposition toward sinful behavior. Is that all? Is it guilt of Adam's sin? Does being born with a disposition toward sinful behavior imply that one is not-heaven-bound from birth? Is it total depravity–that every single part of a person is damaged and functions improperly? It's hard to know what it is people here are aiming to affirm or deny.


  22. konastephen says:

    “Why did Adam and Eve sin?”
    If it were not for the snake in the garden we would not have had sin. After the Fall sin is normative. With Cain you have God (not a snake) speaking to subvert/influence the staus quo. Cain has free choice, he knows what his parents did. He knows right from wrong. Why does he sin? Is he stupid?

    From the Fall onward we see God unfolding His plan to save mankind. Being accepted is not our right (by birth), but a gift—a grace.

  23. Hank says:


    With all due respect, the fact that one is not a sinner until he actually breaks the law of God is more than true "in part." It is wholly true. The fact that staunch Calvinists believe that babies go to heaven if they die only serves to prove that when the rubber hits the road…they don't even believe their own [JFG: deleted] teaching. They contradict their own teachings when they say that sinful babies still get to go to heaven when they die.

    Sin is the transgession of God's law. No transgression = no sin. Calvinists need to understand that truth.

  24. Guy says:


    My guess is we probably agree quite a bit on this topic.

    But what do you think about the fact that Cain and Abel didn't live in the garden–they were as barred as their parents? What do you think about the fact that the 10 plagues fell on the whole of Egypt rather than just on Pharaoh in particular? Why did God send Israel to kill even the children of enemy nations (i don't mean how could a good God do that, i mean why were the children subjected to the penalty which seems to be incurred by the sins of their parents or of previous generations)? What about that all of Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria and Babylon (should we really think there wasn't one single righteous person among them?)? What do you think about Jonah being sent to preach to the Ninevites? Was every single Ninevite equally guilty of the various war crimes of their empire?

    It seems there is precedent in scripture that God inflicts judgments on collective bodies of people even when the entire collective is not guilty of the crimes for which the judgment was inflicted. That precedent either continues into the church age or it doesn't. i think it might be a tall order to prove that it doesn't.


  25. konastephen says:


    Romans 14:23 sums up nicely what sin is. Sin is not merely an act of transgression, it is a failure to act in faith. We are not born acting in faith towards God.

    Calvinists do not contradict their own teaching on this matter–they believe in the sovereignty of God and the fallenness of man. Let's try to hear and understand the Calvinist teaching from their perspective. We need not agree with everything, but let's try hard to avoid mere caricature.

  26. Laymond says:

    Royce said to Hank "Mankind was seperated from God in Adam’s sin."

    Royce said today, "Sin is not passed from generation to generation by genitics, but my the fact we are humans in like kind as Adam. Adam is represenative of all humans and in him all sin and die. The 2nd Adam, Jesus, was no ordaniry man. He was both God and man, but had no humand father, and no sin in the likeness of Adam. His life of perfect obedience and perfect sinlesness alone prove up his deity."

    Royce what you said may have been helpful, except for one tiny point, Adam, and Jesus had the same father. Or do you intend to say Adam had a human parent, It seems to me that Adam actually had a better chance at total obedance than Jesus who was at least half human creation.
    Adam; Gen 1:27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
    Jesus; Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

    Royce I believe there is an other explanation.
    Why was the tree placed in the garden anyway ?

  27. Hank says:


    Those were excellent questions and really strong points. However, there is a difference between suffering the consequences of anothers actions and being guilty and/or responsible for their actions.

    Cain and Able were never allowed to enjoy the Garden of Eden BECAUSE of the sin of their parents, true. But that is not the same as saying they were born sinful and prone to desire more evil than their parents were. The sin of others often effect the lot and circumstances of the unborn…but it never effects their nature and soul.

    Again breaking Gods law = sin. No breaking Gods law = no sin.

  28. konastephen says:


    Are you saying that Adam was also God, or that Jesus is not God?

  29. Guy says:



    But i don't see anything inconsistent or incompatible with any of that in saying that people now have a disposition toward sinful behavior because of the Fall. Mind you, i'm not sure i believe that, but i'm saying i don't see any obvious flaw in it.

    i think physical death has come on all as a result of the Fall. Also, Adam and Eve did enjoy an openness and fellowship with God in the Garden, and then they were exiled. That banishment is suffered by us all. Thus the general relationship of mankind with God is different (even for children) than it was at the beginning. i think at least these things are inherited by humanity from the Fall, and there may be more, but i don't know. While i regard children as "safe" and unaccountable, based on at least these two things, i can't say children are born with precisely the same state or condition as Adam when first created.


  30. konastephen says:


    With your formula, that "breaking Gods law = sin. No breaking Gods law = no sin", we really don’t need a Christ. And if we follow Jesus, then he's just our good moral example.

    While I agree with the Restorationist plea for personal moral responsibility, and am against how Calvinism can sometimes devolve into a type of fatalism, I think we need to restore a higher view of sin. If we are just talking about not breaking God’s law, then life should be much easier. I can do it myself. You can do it. We all can do it. Let’s just be good…

    Alexander Campbell said:

    “ Adam rebelled… The stream of humanity, thus contaminated at its fountain, cannot in this world ever rise of itself to its primitive purity and excellence. We all inherit a frail constitution physically, intellectually, but especially morally frail and imbecile. We have all inherited our father's constitution and fortune; for Adam, we are told, after he fell "begat a son in his own image," and that son was just as bad as any other son ever born into the world; for he murdered his own dear brother because he was a better man than himself. Thus "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by that one sin; and so death, the wages of sin, has fallen upon all the offspring of Adam," because in him they have all sinned, or been made mortal, and consequently are born under condemnation to that death which fell upon our common progenitor because of his transgression.”

    " In Adam all have sinned; therefore "in Adam all die." Your nature, gentle reader, not your person, was in Adam when he put forth his hand to break the precept of Jehovah. You did not personally sin in that act; but your nature, then in the person of your father, sinned against the Author of your existence. In the just judgment, therefore, of your heavenly Father, your nature sinned in Adam, and with him it is right that all human beings should be born mortal, and that death should lord it over the whole race as he has done in innumerable instances even "over them that have not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression," i.e., by violating a positive law. Now it must be conceded that what God can righteously and mercifully inflict upon a part of mankind, he may justly and mercifully inflict upon all; and therefore, those that live one score or fourscore years on this earth, for the sin of their nature in Adam, might have been extinguished the first year as reasonably as those who have in perfect infancy perished from the earth. Death is expressly denominated by an apostle, "the wages of sin."”

  31. Randall says:

    Many folks understand that there is a difference between Adam and Jesus. One would not think that would have to emphasized. Some theologians teach that Jesus was the completely unique God-Man i.e he had a complete human nature apart from sin and he was at the same time fully God. Not half man and half God but fully man and fully God.

    Adam was a mere man, not God. These theologians teach that Adam was created good, with no predisposition towards evil. However, he was created peccable which means he was able to sin. Contemplating why a man who was good would choose to sin as Adam did is difficult for me to understand. But he did it and the whole human race was cursed as a result. No man born since the fall has been free from that curse.

    Since the Fall mankind is not able to not sin – apart from the enabling grace of the HS. That doesn't mean we commit acts of iniquity 100% of the time. It does mean it is not possible for a fallen man to live a perfect life – or anything remotely close to it. I doubt any person that posts here would be so bold as to claim to have gone 24 hours w/o sinning in either though or deed.

    God can not sin. It is not just that he won't sin, he can't sin b/c his nature is totally pure. We all act in accordance with our nature. We sin b/c we are sinful. It is not merely that we are sinful b/c we sinned. (Again, I can't explain why Adam chose to sin when he was not sinful.)

    Some theologians teach that Jesus was God so he was impeccable i.e he was not able to sin. He was not merely able to not sin. I beleive Jesus was both able to not sin and not able to sin, but that's just me. We all have our opinions and that happens to be mine.

    The idea that Jesus was not able to sin gives heart burn to many in the CofC b/c they think that means he couldn't have been tempted as you and I are. That's b/c we often don't understand temptation. If a woman, lovely of face and form walks past a man he may lust after her b/c that is his nature. I believe Jesus was tempted in every way just as you and I are, but his nature was pure, not fallen like ours. So he never lusted after anything nor sinned in any other way, but he many have been tempted even more than many of us.

    So when temptation (any and every type) was placed before Jesus he never wanted to act on it. He didn't even entertain impure thoughts like we do. The difference is his nature vs our nature. We choose to sin b/c we are by nature sinful. He never chose to sin b/c he is by nature pure and holy.

    BTW, Paul discusses sin in Romans 7. He even says that he chooses to do what he would not do b/c of sin that indwells him. Sin is not merely an individual act of iniquity. It is also a principle very much alive and active, even in the life of a believer. Thanks be to God for saving us wretched people from this body of death!

    All of this information and more is available in books as well as on line. There is no disgrace in reading and becoming better informed before we characterize a brother's thinking as wicked or satanic. There is also no need to create false dichotomies and claim that someone with whom we disagree must believe either this or that when in fact they don't affirm either. The exhortation in a comment above to strive to understand other points of view is worthy of our consideration.

  32. guy says:


    We need Christ to reverse the curse–the consequences of sin. Our alienation from God, from creation, from each other, and from ourselves. That's true even if Hank's position about the definition of sin is true. i don't see how his position necessarily implies we don't need Christ.


  33. Hank says:

    Konastephen wrote:

    "your formula, that “breaking Gods law = sin. No breaking Gods law = no sin”, we really don’t need a Christ. And if we follow Jesus, then he’s just our good moral example.

    While I agree with the Restorationist plea for personal moral responsibility, and am against how Calvinism can sometimes devolve into a type of fatalism, I think we need to restore a higher view of sin. If we are just talking about not breaking God’s law, then life should be much easier. I can do it myself. You can do it. We all can do it. Let’s just be good…"

    Are you serious? Do you really believe that any of us could "not break God's law"?

    Guy wrote:

    "i think physical death has come on all as a result of the Fall."

    Which parts (consequences) of the fall do you believe Jesus suffered?

    Do you believe he would never have grown old, gotten sick and died had he not been crucified? How much different do you believe his flesh was than ours?

    Or, do you believe he received a fallen body like the rest of us but no fallen nature?

    Personally, I believe that Jesus had the same exact body as the rest of us. He had the same desires of the flesh as any of us which is why we are told that he was just as tempted in all points as the rest. If my body was born corrupt, and his was not, then big deal he did no sin — let me have a whirl at in his special non prone to sin body. But, in truth, he had no advantage.

  34. konastephen says:


    I hope you see I was being facetious. If we can’t escape from breaking God’s law, then why???

    Sometimes all this talk about sin and law seems a bit abstruse. Again, I’d like to bring up the theme of exile. In the OT it is said that if Israel disobeyed then they would be exiled (Deut.29 & 30). When taken into exile the children of these people incurred the same punishment—people were born into exile/slavery. These OT laws were meant as a tutor (Gal. 3), why? In part to show us the fallenness of man and to our need of a savior. For we are all born into exile—due to Adam’s original sin. No one is born a Christian, we become one by putting on Christ in baptism.

    This is not just about individuals obeying positive commands from God, it is about the restoration of all things…(Acts 3-19-23)

  35. Hank says:

    Randall wrote:

    "I believe Jesus was tempted in every way just as you and I are, but his nature was pure, not fallen like ours. So he never lusted after anything nor sinned in any other way, but he many have been tempted even more than many of us."

    Which is clearly incorrect because the inspired James tells us that "every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed."

    You see, being tempted is the same thing as being drawn away of ones own lust. Do drawn away of own lust = no temptation.

    Randall, you simply not say that Jesus was never "drawn away of his lust and enticed" and then also say that he was indeed tempted, without contradicting yourself.

    Again Temptation IS being drawn away of lust and enticed (that's God's very definition of what temptation is).

    Having said that…..being tempted (or drawn away and enticed) is not sin. Rather, it is only sin after "lust hath conceived" which Jesus never experienced.

  36. Hank says:

    The 3rd paragraph should read:

    No drawn away of own lust = No temptation.

    Not "Do"

  37. Hank says:


    Do you honestly believe that a one week old baby is actually sinning by not yet having an active faith in God???

  38. Anonymous says:

    If a person is born perfect how does perfect make a mistake? Perfect is perfect, a perfect person does not mess up! Adam and Eve were made in the image of God, they were not God Himself. Adam and Eve were given a spirit that had free will to choose to do right or wrong. The human spirit is weak, it does not have the power of the Holy Spirit. God first and foremost wants man to look to Him for guidance, not to anyone else or ourselves. God is all-knowing and all powerful and wants to help us, He gives us the free will to choose to follow Him or something else. Putting the tree in the garden, not forewarning them about Satan, leaving them alone with Satan, and Satan can do nothing that God does not allow, none of this was mean…it was brilliant! God was teaching man a profound lesson, the lesson that we need God!!

    Why is it that children want to do bad things before they are taught they are bad, what is it that they would do bad things? “Among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”(Ephesians 2:3 )

    Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, the Lord saved Noah because,“Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”(Genesis 6:9)
    What is the Biblical reason that God destroyed the rest of mankind in the flood, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”(Genesis 6:5), “So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”(Genesis 6:12), “Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”(Genesis 8:21).

  39. Larry Short says:

    Just for consideration,, not my firm beleifs.
    1) Adam was made good. Gem 1: 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (TNIV
    Good is a good judge of good! Adam was good!
    The Fall lost us the position of being with God in the garden. Did it also stain us to be less than good?
    2) Satan knows temptation. I am sure he is very expert at what could work, and what's a waste of his time. He would no have wasted the time with Jesus if Jesus coud not be tempted. A fully God Jesus would not have bothered praying "let this cup pass from me" Jesus is fully, temptable human.
    3) If the human side of Jesus is his mother, and the divine God, OK. None of us have any personal frame of reference to understand.
    3) It was a rabbinical teaching technique to make someone a type of a prior biblical person. Paul was well trained in this. That doesn't make it wrong but don't put hugh emphasis on Jesus as the new Adam. Remember Jesus' favorite term for himself was "son of man".

  40. guy says:


    ?? i'm confused where the communication broke down. i said Cain and Abel were banished from Eden even though it was their parents' doing. So Jesus suffered the curse as well even though He didn't do anything to incur it.

    i believe Jesus was human in every sense that we are (Heb 2:17). That's why i can't buy original sin or total depravity or whatever–because you have to come up with these bizarre "inherited only through the male line" stories to cover your posterior. Yes, Jesus would've died just like us even if not crucified.


  41. Randall says:

    From the following site:

    John 1
    1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

    3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood[a] it.

    John 1:14

    14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[a] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Randall thinks John's gospel suggests that Jesus was no mere man. Indeed, it is generally understood that Jesus was God in the flesh (incarnate).

    Please do not confuse being tempted with sin. When a man says he was tempted to do something he generally means he wanted to do it and that suggests he has already sinned in his heart, but perhaps not in act in that particular case. I do not believe Jesus ever sinned in his heart.

    Granted there are passages about Jesus that are hard to understand. For example, Jesus said only the Father knew just when he would return. So some deny that Jesus was omniscient. The "kenosis" (emptied himself) passage in Philippians is another one that many consider difficult. Of course, there are other passages.

    So again, it is no disgrace to read a book, or look on the internet and become educated before setting our feet in concrete on a particular understanding. Sometimes people even become less rigid as they understand more. There have been many women and men of God that have contributed much from which we could learn. When one stands on the shoulders of giants one can see farther.

    It is our lack of emphasis, study and understanding of issues like this and heavy emphasis on issues like instrumental music that have caused more than a few to say the CofC has majored in the minors and minored in the majors.

  42. konastephen says:

    To say that Jesus is like us is correct, he is both fully God and fully man. But we cannot say that we are like him–at least not by birth.
    So we're not born of the second Adam when we came into this world, but through the first. There are consequences to this being the case…just like being born a slave in Egypt. We are born into a problem (fallen humanity) and we are also part of that very problem we are a part, by birth, of the very humanity we know to be fallen…

    It seems that some think that we all have our own personal fall like Adam and Eve did. While on one level this might be true, there are many incongruities between us and them that void such a thought (especially at the social/systemic/cosmic level).

  43. guy says:


    If object A "is like" object B, then necessarily object B must be "like" object A in the same respect that object A "is like" object B. Clearly then you must, i take it, mean to identify *different* respects.

    "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers **in every way,** in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." (Hebrews 2:17)

    If there is some feature not included in Jesus' humanity that is included in ours, then i don't see how the Hebrews' writer statement could be correct.


  44. Hank says:

    Well said, guy.

  45. konastephen says:


    My point was that though God has condescended to be like us, in the God-man Jesus, we are not like him by virtue of our birth. Jesus was fully man and fully God. I know I'm not God, and dare I say that without Christ I'm not fully man!

    Hebrews 3
    "[…]as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God[…]but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope."

    Honestly I'm not sure what exactly you're saying. You think that because He is like us that we are like Him–therefore we can be fully man too and we don’t need a savior?

    Do you think that mankind is fallen, or do you believe that we all experience a fall of sorts as we grow from childhood to adulthood…? Hopefully this will then wrap back around to Jay's post…

  46. guy says:


    “I doubt any person that posts here would be so bold as to claim to have gone 24 hours w/o sinning in either though or deed.”

    Actually i’ve heard people make that claim more than once, and they made it on the basis that sin is not as pervasive as any catholic-esque or calivisnistic-esque teaching would have us believe.

    i’m not sure about that. nonetheless–what do you think? Was John crazy when he wrote 1John 2:1?


  47. Hank says:


    Do you believe that Jesus was tempted to sin? If not to sin, the to what?

    If he was in fact tempted….according to James, he too was then drawn away of his own lust and enticed. That is what it means to be tempted.

  48. Randall says:

    Yes, of course Jesus was tempted to sin and no, he was not drawn away of his own lust. I don't think he even wanted to give in to the temptation that was placed before him.

    Isn't it great to be able to take a verse and lift it out of its context (*proof text*), ignoring the greater narrative of scripture and act as though we have proof positive of one's ill conceived proposition. It seems so easy and hardly requires any real thought or work at all.

    Perhaps it is more difficult to read about a particular topic and consider the whole of scripture, the thought of others, sometimes generations of people, that have devoted a significant portion devoted their lives to understanding scriptures, the nature of God and man and what God has done for fallen men like me and you.

    Jesus was more than a mere man and he was both tempted as we are and remained sinless. I believe the whole of scripture testify to this truth.

  49. Laymond says:

    konastephen, on August 18th, 2010 at 10:28 am Said:
    Are you saying that Adam was also God, or that Jesus is not God?

    Well, the bible says, neither was..

  50. guy says:


    i don't know where you're getting the "we don't need a savior" bit from. i haven't said anything like that, nor have i understood hank to. Even if i'm not born with "original sin" (in whatever sense that is intended), that doesn't alter the fact that i need Christ to redeem me from my sin and from the curse, the consequences of sin i've inherited.

    i believe the Hebrews writer when he writes that Jesus was made like us in every way. If there is anything intrinsic to my human nature which was not also intrinsic to Jesus' human nature, then it is false that He was made like us in every way. i believe that every traditional rendering of the "original sin" concept with which i am familiar implies such a falsehood.


  51. Hank says:

    Either — Jesus was "drawn away of his own lust and enticed" (the Bible definition of temptation), or — he was never tempted.

    Think of it this way…

    Being tempted means desiring to do something sinful. Does it not?

    Tempted to do what?? To sin….

    Nobody ever was "tempted" to do good.

    The Bible explains it like this:

    "But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed"

    If Jesus was never "drawn away of his own lust and enticed", he was never tempted.

    Who can prove otherwise?

  52. abasnar says:

    Having a sinful and corrupt nature is not the same as having sinned. I like this verse as an explanation:

    Heb 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

    In the days of His flesh: Flesh in the NT not only means the body, but the fallen nature as well. And there is a connection between the dires of the flesh and the body, as all of us know and experience. Our belly has some valid desires (hunger) but also has the tendency to become our God. The same body as ours was the Lord's body. Thus the same desires and temptation that endanger our eternity, were experienced by the Lord.

    Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, Thus our Lord Jesus had to fight! He had to wrestle with His flesh as everyone among us had to – and that's why He can understand us us and be a merciful highpriest for us. He fought with tears, loud crioes, prayers, supplications … do we fight in the same manner?

    to him who was able to save him from death, I don't think this means His death on the cross and the following resurrection, because He always spoke of this purpose of His mission. But this speaks of falling into sin and die a s a consequence of sin, which Jesus could have done – but did not. This is an essential part of our salvation.

    and he was heard because of his reverence. Victory has its roots in the fear of God. Christ's desire was to honor His Father, and that#s why God fought on His side – He overcame with the Help of God (not in His own power alone. Thus He sets an example we shall imitate so we can live victorious lives as well.

  53. Larry Short says:

    Hank, first "no one is ever tempted to do good", well maybe a demon has a wild thought……
    A more casual definition of temptation is much like "that's tempting" to a desert. Was Jesus tempted to disobey God's will by asking this cup to pass? Did He sin?
    Some girls in stores are very attractive by hormones that God put in me. I'm tempted by it if I only notice the beauty and don't dwell on coveting, have I sinned? The forbidden fruit of the garden looked good to eat but God said no, so if that was that no sin. Perhaps you push temptation too far.

  54. Larry Short says:

    Abasnar, well said.

  55. Jody B says:

    Larry, x2.

  56. konastephen says:


    I guess I don’t see how we differ then. For me, I believe we need a savior because of our fallenness (which includes but is not limited to our personal actualized sins). But if we don’t believe that we are somehow fallen, if we don't believe in a Fall, then why would we need a savior?
    While I believe that Jesus was actually made like us in every way, I don’t see why this necessarily means that we are like him in every way (in actuality not just in potential).

    I believe Jesus was tempted and that He chose rightly…and I believe He could do this because He was God. Otherwise I'd pray to Abel as my mediator being the first righteous sacrifice…!

  57. Randall says:

    In your comment above you said the following:
    "Being tempted means desiring to do something sinful. Does it not?"

    Please allow me to suggest you are overstating the case. Many.most words can be used in different senses and the word *tempted* is no exception.

    If a woman, lovely of face and form and perhaps dressed in a provocative manner were to walk in front a man and he looked upon her he might simply think she is a lovely (that is, physically attractive) woman and let it go at that with no lustful thoughts. The temptation was put before him, but he did not sin in this example.

    On the other hand, the same situation could occur and the man might lust after her. Even though he may not have acted out his adulterous desire he might say "I was tempted to do it." In the latter case he had already sinned, not simply been tempted. Jesus made it clear that in this case the man had already committed adultery in his heart.

    I suppose a glutton could look on hot fudge sundae in a similar fashion. I do believe Jesus got hungry and hot or cold or whatever. I do not believe he ever lusted after a woman, food, a possession or anything else.

    Another person might be presented with an opportunity to do good. For example, a man or woman could become aware of a family in dire need of food and have the means to address the situation for good. (I suspect many of us have been approached by a a beggar on the street or the parking lot of the grocery store.) The person might be so selfish (like many of us) that they turn away and do not provide the sustenance required for the person in need. Later they might say "I was tempted to do good, but I decided not to do it." Perhaps they had already sinned when they decided to refuse to do good when presented with the opportunity.

    Hope you will give a little consideration as to the different ways the same word may be used. Not every writer of a verse in the scriptures always uses the same word the same way nor the same way in which another writer of scripture used the same word.

    That's all I have to say on the subject and no reply is expected.

  58. Royce Ogle says:

    This thread, and others like it, expose a huge problem in churches of Christ. The problem is not that we disagree about doctiine, see some Bible verses differently, and have different ideas about how to worship. Every Christian group shares at lease some of these things because we are humans, egos demand to be heard and seen, and selfishness sometimes rules. There is a far greater problems though.

    The sad truth is that many in our churches have a low view of Christ and a high view of man. Many of us have the same low view of the person and work of Jesus as do the cults. Some of what I am reading here would be perfectly acceptable by Mormans or Jehoviah's Witnesses.

    A theology of salvation has been concocted where mere men should deserve as much credit as God "if" one finally gets to heaven. Much more empahsis is placed on what sinful man can do to please God, rather than making much of what Jesus has already done on behalf of sinners.

    A view of redemption that is man centered, church centered, and relegates Jesus to some place other than supreme Lord over all things is dangerous and is God's' enemy in the world.

    Jesus promised there would be wolves in sheep's clothing, tares among the wheat, and imposters crying Lord Lord have we not done the 5 steps of salvation, done the 5 acts of worship, been faithful and "sound"?

    It is at best a sad state of affairs.


  59. Hank says:


    I am not "overstating the case" I am simply accepting the word of God alone. The fact of the matter is that God gave us the very definition of what "being tempted" is and means.

    He put it this way — EVERY man is tempted WHEN he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed…"

    Now you may be tempted to add or take away from that inspired (and very detailed) definition of what being tempted means….but, God said what he said.

    Again, temptation IS being drawn away by ones lust and enticed…

  60. Alabama John says:


    so well expressed and I say AMEN and AMEN!!!

  61. Hank says:


    You are putting words in the mouth of our Lord which he never said, and you really shouldn't do that.

    Jesus never promised there would be "imposters crying 'Lord, Lord, have we not done the five steps of salvation and been faithful"?

    I really don't get your disdain for doing what God said to be saved, nor your disdain for being faithful and sound?

    God actually likes when we are those things….

  62. Royce Ogle says:

    Hank I think most everyone will understand clearly what I wrote. I also don't think I am trying to change the Word of God.

    Anyone who dosen't believe we have unsaved people in our churches should read and reread Matthew 7

  63. guy says:


    i believe that "fallenness" extends beyond our personal sins–quite a great deal. What i reject is that we are by nature–that is, intrinsically–immoral. But even if personal sins were the sole feature of our fallenness, we'd still need a Savior to supply forgiveness. So i don't see how that view eliminates the need for Christ.

    Jesus being "made like us in every way" in the sense that He possessed all the features of our humanity implies that we, as humans, possess those very features. If a fork is "like" a spoon in that it's plastic, it necessarily follows that the spoon is also "like" the fork in that it's plastic.


  64. abasnar says:

    Dear Koastephen, I don't think I really understand, what you mean, when you wrote:

    I guess I don’t see how we differ then. For me, I believe we need a savior because of our fallenness (which includes but is not limited to our personal actualized sins). But if we don’t believe that we are somehow fallen, if we don’t believe in a Fall, then why would we need a savior?
    While I believe that Jesus was actually made like us in every way, I don’t see why this necessarily means that we are like him in every way (in actuality not just in potential).

    I believe Jesus was tempted and that He chose rightly…and I believe He could do this because He was God. Otherwise I’d pray to Abel as my mediator being the first righteous sacrifice…!

    I'll comment on it anyway, but maybe I misunderstood you …

    For me, I believe we need a savior because of our fallenness (which includes but is not limited to our personal actualized sins).

    The way I see it: As long as we don't sin, we are not guilty – so our fallenness is of no effect.
    As long as we don't know the law (or don't know the difference of good and evil), our sins are not counted against us (Rom 5:13).
    So in both cases we actually don't need a savior or a saving faith, because we are not in a state wher we could be judged acording to our works and be damned. Or, more precisely: God will save us in spite of our fallenness and our lack of faith, understanding and works, based on His unchanging grace and justice.

    I believe Jesus was tempted and that He chose rightly…and I believe He could do this because He was God.

    I don't think that's why He overcame temptations and did not sin. Why did He cry out to the Father with tears if He was God and could – by His divinty – overcome? This makes no sense, and furthermore: This would become an excuse for us to fail, saying: We must sin, because we are fallen humans. This makes it impossible to follow Jesus' example!
    No, our Lord was completely human including our fallen nature; and He had to struggle as we do, only that He stayed victorious. But he was ALSO divine, had the Holy Spirit at His side and knew why He was here. But his flesh was not a bit less fallen than ours.

    So, what does that mean for us? We, who sinned became slaves to sin, and THIS is the dilemma! We became slaves by choice! By a wrong choice, as Eve chose to listen to the serpent and Adam to hs wife and we to the society around us. That's why we had to be redeemed, bought free, from the chains of death and sin. It is like the liberation of a slave, the full price for the souls was paid on the cross. But now, we are born again through the Spirit and put into a new standing before God, being enabled by the same power that was with Christ. So, as a Christian, I cannot use Christ's divinty as an excuse for not overcoming temptations, because:

    2Pe 1:3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,
    2Pe 1:4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

    What a miracle! What a change! What victory is ours!

    So in conclusion: The fallenness of our nature is not the problem. The problem is, we sinned and became slaves of sin. Tha fallen nature alone does not make us guilty before God, it are our personal sins that have this negative effect.

    And that's the reason why children or mentally handicapped persons cannot be considered damned, but are saved. "Blessed are the children!" – These are no empty words. Hence infant baptism is not only wrong, but also unnecessary.


  65. guy says:


    perhaps i'm misunderstanding you, but it sounds to me like you take "Savior" to imply being saved *from condemnation.* i certainly think that's included, but i think the scope of Jesus is far wider than simply ensuring we stay out of hell.


  66. guy says:


    You wrote:
    "Some of what I am reading here would be perfectly acceptable by Mormans or Jehoviah’s Witnesses."

    ?? And what you're saying would be perfectly acceptable to many Presbyterians and Lutherans. Does that make it better? Worse? If a Mormon agrees with me that stealing is wrong, that means by idea about stealing being immoral is suspect? i'm not sure what it is you think these words prove.


  67. guy says:


    Does rejecting original sin constitute having a "low view" of Christ? If so, how? What standard of comparison is being used to determine what constitutes a "high" vs. a "low" view?


  68. Laymond says:

    Some people here seem to agree that the only reason Jesus did not sin is, he did not have a human pater, to all those people, I ask was John the Baptist one of those naturally sinful human beings, if so could you give an example. Was he born a sinful baby.

  69. konastephen says:


    There is so much to say about what you wrote, but let’s go right to the heart of the issue with the verse about the children. Mark 10:13-16. It seems to me that it is the disciples that thought that the children did not need saving and were wasting Jesus’ time. Again Jesus uses this opportunity to broaden our understanding of what constitutes sin/need and specifically to its relation to hardness of heart.

    Otherwise, how you describe Jesus being like us, and us being like him, seems to forsake any real notion of participation—that through participation we are being made like Him—He who is God!

    Our humanity, our existence is derived solely from God. It doesn’t work the other way around. We were made good in his image, but this image is broken or damaged, like a cracked mirror. Only in Christ can we be made whole…

    Again I plead to drop the emphasis on being a sinful baby at birth and to instead see this through the lens of exile!

  70. Hank says:


    Great points. Thank you.

  71. konastephen says:


    A low view of Christ is one that has resolved the tension between His humanity and His divinity, towards Him being merely ‘like us in every way’. A high view of man is one that sees our likeness to God as somehow self-predicating.

    I think we need to start from the beginning. God is God, and man is man. Is Jesus God or not? I have no problem with the humanity of Jesus, do you have a problem with His divinity? Do you see that we are not divine like He was…?

  72. guy says:


    You wrote:
    "A low view of Christ is one that has resolved the tension between His humanity and His divinity, towards Him being merely ‘like us in every way’. A high view of man is one that sees our likeness to God as somehow self-predicating."

    Says who? Who gets to say with conclusive authority that one of these views is "low" and one is "high"? And again, "high" or "low" compared to what?

    You wrote:
    "I think we need to start from the beginning. God is God, and man is man. Is Jesus God or not? I have no problem with the humanity of Jesus, do you have a problem with His divinity? Do you see that we are not divine like He was…?"

    i never said we're divine. i think Christ was fully God and fully man. But if that's true, then Christ being fully God does not alter the degree to which He was also fully man.

    i don't there's any major rub between the horns of that claim. i think the rub is introduced when we ascribe to human nature features which we cannot also ascribe to Jesus (i.e., original sin). That's when we have to contrive ad hoc theories about inheritance through male lines and such in order to maintain talk of us being thoroughly depraved by nature, but Jesus being thoroughly good by nature. But if Jesus was made like us in every way as Hebrews says, then such differences between our humanity and Christ's humanity can't hold true.


  73. konastephen says:


    So then what role does Jesus' divinity play in all of this? It seems of little consequence in what is said in some of the posts above…

    For me, Original Sin has nothing to do with genetics or a male line or any of that. It is about the problem of humanity (the logic that works itself out in actual sin) and how God came to us by sending His son to be an atoning sacrifice…

    The problem I have with dropping Original Sin is that it tends to personalizes sin too much and seems to suggest that we are entitled to heaven if we’re not capable of knowing that we’re sinning. I know that I don’t know how much I sin. As an adult I’m still ignorant of how much I miss the mark. I still think though that without Christ these are still sins that I’m accountable for…at least as much those who killed Jesus were accountable, though Jesus said, “forgive them for they do not know what they do”. Luke 23:34

  74. Anonymous says:

    Keep reading in Hebrews and you will see that Jesus was/is unique, Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

  75. Randall says:

    Not only is Pelagianism alive and well in the CofC, but also Aryanism. Historically, this has been an issue for the Stone Campbell movement. While Stone was not quite an Aryan, he did deny the trinity and the divinity of Jesus. Thomas Campbell, Alexander's father told Stone he was entitled to his own beliefs but please don't shout it loudly in his journal as it would lead to them being labeled as heretics.

    You may notice in many of our songbooks the words "God in three persons, blessed Trinity" were changed to God over all and blessed eternally. When someone goes to the trouble to change lyrics it is frequently b/c they have theological problem with the lyrics as they were written. I suspect several here kinda like that change.

  76. guy says:


    i believe that all men are subject to the curse of Genesis 3, and only Christ can reverse it. i'm not sure i think people are ignorant in the sense relevant to accountability (Rom 1:18-20). But even so, i don't think ignorance necessarily makes people inculpable of sin (Acts 17:30-31). i think people are lost and have no hope apart from Christ. i don't believe that anyone is "entitled" to anything. And yet, i don't believe in original sin–that we've inherited the actual guilt of Adam's sin, or that we now are totally depraved and are incapable of obeying God. i don't see any immediate tension in this set of beliefs.


  77. konastephen says:


    It's not about inheriting guilt, it is about being a part of a broken humanity. Though in our brokenness we might wish it so, we are not isolated individuals. The curse you speak of is not just out there somewhere, it runs right through each of us, and it has an effect (depravation/deprivation, whatever). There is a tension between the fact that we are personally responsible and free in our actions and yet only able to do what is truly good in Christ (by faith).

    If, as you say, we are not incapable of obeying God, then it must also be possible to avoid sinning. By what you say we should be able to avoid missing the mark. If not, then why? Because of the bad example of others? If that is the answer, then we start to sound an awful lot like Adam and Eve after the Fall. Genesis 3:12-13

  78. abasnar says:

    perhaps i’m misunderstanding you, but it sounds to me like you take “Savior” to imply being saved *from condemnation.* i certainly think that’s included, but i think the scope of Jesus is far wider than simply ensuring we stay out of hell.


    You are right, Guy, but when we are talking abou the age of accountability it is about heaven or hell, about the question of theose unbaptized infants at judgment day. That's why I focus on this aspect.


  79. guy says:


    Maybe i'm misunderstanding you, please correct me if so, but it sounds as though you're suggesting the impossibility to do good is a feature intrinsic to our human nature. Why *must* it be impossible? If it were impossible, we'd have an excuse. But as it stands, we are clearly blameworthy because the problem is with our will ("i won't") rather than our capacity ("i can't").

    i'm open to the idea of what some call restrictive libertarianism. That is, through a number and/or pattern of choices, i can so effect my own behavior/character such that i reach a stage at which i am no longer able to make certain other choices. i think sinning and incapacity could work this way.

    i think if you accept an inbred incapacity, then even if you water them down, at the end of the day you've got to go with either wesleyanism (prevenient grace) or calvinism (irresistable grace). i really don't know of a third option, and i just don't buy either of those two. (Just curious, did you read Jack Cottrell's latest article in the Standard about paradigms?)


  80. konastephen says:


    The way I’d put it is like this: we have radical freedom, we actually do chose; but insofar as we are born into a race that has incurred a distancing in our relationship with God (we are born babies of the first Adam, not the Second) then we fail to see in full what the Good is and what it is not—we fail to be perfect images reflecting His Glory—and we are gradually given over to our own lusts. Even with the Law, and in our ignorance, we misuse our will and chose wrongly. Even if we knew all the rules and could count them all , and could fulfill each one, we’d still be sinners—only with a right relationship with God can we begin to truly be what we were meant to be. All else is rebellion. And only with our eyes on Jesus can we have success.

    Can we do good? Even pagans do good things. We’re talking about how man can overcome the effects of the fall, how can man be restored state after the Original Exile. If children are not in this state that ‘misses the mark’, then they do not need saving. They must have this pre-fall perfect relationship with God. But if they miss the mark, then they need grace…

    But if children are saved by God then it is God’s choice, not because of something intrinsic to their nature. God is sovereign. We’re but a fog…

    A response to spoons and forks:
    A 747 is like a space shuttle and a space shuttle is like a 747, in that they are both vehicles which fly—only one though can achieve the escape velocity required to overcome the gravity [of Original Sin]…

  81. Randall says:

    A number of years ago I read the Cathy Guiswite comic strip, and I think someone referred to it on one of the blogs I read.

    The strip had four panels. In the first panel Cathy is sitting in front of the TV being a couch potato and thinking that there is a gym nearby where she could be doing her body some good by exercising. In the second panel she is thinking that she is watching some mindless TV show while she has a book case full of high quality literature in the same room and she could be doing her mind some good by reading great literature rather than watching TV. In the third panel she is still in front of the TV snacking on junk food and thinking that she has a refrigerator full of fresh fruit and vegetables and that it would be much healthier if she ate that instead of the junk food. In the fourth panel she says to herself "Perfection is within my reach, but slightly beyond my grasp."

    There is a lot of theology there. I do believe we are born with a predisposition towards sin and would not ever come to God on our own. Those of us that do come do so as a result of His drawing us to him. But even then we are like Paul when he says he does not do what he would do but instead does the very thing he would not do. We are like Cathy who could easily eat well and train her mind and body well, but she doesn't do.

    Though the power of the Spirit we could be obedient all the time. But we don't do it and the reason we don't do it is that we don't want to do it. That's a big part of the difference between us and Jesus. There is something wrong with us that wasn't wrong with him. He wanted to please His Father all the time. Other than Jesus there has never been another person that lived a perfect life, nor has anyone else been capable of it – with the theoretical exception of Adam before the fall.

    If someone wants to make a big deal out of how free their will is that is fine with me. I wonder though if they have considered why they don't will well. In fact just the opposite occurs so very very often, that is, they will very poorly. I think this it true of all of you b/c it true of me and it was true of Paul.

  82. guy says:


    i'm not sure what to say about most of what you wrote, i honestly didn't understand what exactly you were advocating.

    But at the end you wrote:
    "A response to spoons and forks:
    A 747 is like a space shuttle and a space shuttle is like a 747, in that they are both vehicles which fly—only one though can achieve the escape velocity required to overcome the gravity [of Original Sin]…"

    Then in that sense, the 747 and space shuttle are not a like.

    If it's true that Jesus was made like us in every way, then sure, He could have all our features plus some other we don't have. That all seems compatible to me. But to ascribe to Jesus features which imply that He does not possess features that we do–now i don't see how to harmonize that with Hebrews. And it seems to me traditional renderings of "Original Sin" raise that kind of incompatibility.

    You seem to be using "original sin" in a way different from what Jay raised in the post–guilt or damnation from birth, inherited from Adam. It is this traditional sense that i have been meaning to combat. i've also introduced another sense in which the idea is used, the notion that now sinful tendencies are intrinsic to human nature. That i don't think i agree with either.


  83. konastephen says:

    Then you believe that Jesus was not divine on earth, or that we are divine in the same sense He is…???
    I'm sorry if I haven’t been clear. I also don’t buy into the so-called 'traditional' renderings of Original Sin–what I see here, though, is mostly caricature.

    Both Jay and Campbell seem clear that sinful tendencies are intrinsic to human nature after the Fall, why though do you find this difficult to agree with? Look around you! Assuming anything is not as it should be, do we think that this is the case because knowing people make intentional rebellion??? Or are the particulars of evil in this world more the logic of the Fall working itself out–our being separated from the source of all that is Good winding us further and further from truth and goodness? All the while God's grace is working to save us–if we have ears to hear and eyes to see!

    Your view seems to attenuate the differences before and after the Fall. I think that it is critical to see the difference between the snake talking to Eve and God talking to Cain…The two stories both suggest free will, and both suggest a radical shift to the gravity of our desires…

  84. konastephen says:


    " But to ascribe to Jesus features which imply that He does not possess features that we do"

    Ah, but Original Sin isn't something we have that Jesus doesn't. It is the cause of something we lack that Jesus doesn't lack!
    Does this make more sense…?

  85. konastephen says:

    I just read Jack Cottrell’s article about paradigms. Very good. Now what about the cofC paradigm (of which I’m a part, but starting to worry)? To some degree we can’t escape interpreting scripture through a paradigm. Consider my paradigm then influenced a bit by N.T. Wright’s focus on exile and with a bit of Pascal’s proto-existentialism…

  86. konastephen says:

    The best way to break free from being stuck in any paradigm is to listen well to others. I’m seriously trying to hear what people are saying here (and at my local church as well), but I’m wondering if this is being reciprocated.
    Again, give Alan Jacobs’ book a go…

    Or read the many blog posts by Scot McKnight (Jesus Creed) regarding this book and topic.

    Scot, reflecting on Jacobs’ book, writes:
    “For Augustine, original sin was an intense idea. It permeated everything. He fought Pelagians/Pelagius over it. Jacobs thinks Pelagius was a bit of a motivational speaker. That perfect obedience was obligatory and therefore possible. He thought Augustine's theory of the corruption of the will was absurd. He sums up Pelagius like this: "Grace empowers us to avoid failure, rather than consoling us after we have failed" (51). Adam, Pelagius said, would have died anyway. Adam's impact on us is as a bad example. The good news: we can obey; the bad new: we can disobey.
    Jacobs deconstructs Pelagius for the possibility of being obedient leads to doubt about our getting the job done, while Augustine's emphasis is "curiously liberating" (53) since it permits failure and tolerates sin in others.
    I jotted this down in the margin: "Many Christians today are Pelagians without his anxiety or fear of judgment, because they've covered their anxiety with casual grace."”
    (… )

  87. guy says:


    i'm not sure i can keep using the term "original sin" in this discussion because it's meaning doesn't persist from one post to the next. i read your posts and am just confused by that term at this point.

    i didn't say i didn't think people are sinful, or that people have tendencies toward sin; i'm calling into question a particular explanation of those facts.

    i had a similar question when reading Cottrell's article. What about the right paradigm? i think even the right paradigm will still encounter counter-evidence (or what appears to be counter evidence). Cottrell seems to suggest that *any* counter evidence means our paradigm is contrived and erroneous.


  88. konastephen says:


    I understand your dissatisfaction with the term Original Sin. The key, though, with this term is in the ‘original’. It’s that Adam’s original sin has grave implications for us—there is a difference after the Fall that runs through each of us. It expressly does not have anything to do with the sins of your mother or your father or the like…
    Let’s call it Original Exile then…?!

    Regarding paradigms, I don’t like the idea of discarding paradigms just because we see problems. I also don’t like the idea that we can somehow rise above all paradigms. I just think we need to keep wrestling with various views, challenging our own, and searching out both new and old ways of listening carefully to what scripture says…

  89. Alabama John says:

    For those that were born on different continents from the jews and chrisitans that never heard of Jesus or baptism so strictly obeying as we see it was impossible, but anyway, were destined by God from inception with original sin to burn in hell for their born with sins. That would be most of the humans that have inhabited the earth by far. if so, the devil has it made since most of Gods created children have been and are being thrown at him free of charge.

    Or, was being born with original sin only for those that were destined by God to hear Jesus and his teachings and then able to make the decision to obey or not and judged accordingly?

    Or, were those that were born in far away places to be judged by the amount of worship and respect and awe they demonstrated to The God they naturally knew from obvious signs everywhere of His existence?

    Seems Romans speaks something on this!

  90. Larry Short says:

    While I like speculating on the exact nature of God and man in the garden, there are many things we do not know. We do not know Adam's physical normal lifetime or even if it changed due to the fall. I do not know Adam's propensity to sin, wether it increased after Eve or after the sin. We do not know the temeline in the garden, did Adam get lonely after a week or a century? Was it a year or decades after Eve before the sin?
    I do know that Adam seems exactly like us, upon sin, he first blames God for the woman he made, and then her. I tend to beleive Adam was exactly like us, that is the fall did not change human nature.

  91. Alabama John says:

    Many sins are only sins simply because we are told by God directly or indirectly to either do something or not to do something and we do the opposite.

    So, if we never knew to do or not to do those things it would not be sin to do or not do!

    You have to be able to understand what is Gods law to be held accountable. Where there is no understanding, there can be no disobedience.

    Age has nothing to do with it. That's why we christians disagree so much on the age number. Our thinking, looking and emphasis is in the wrong direction and on the wrong thing.

    Age of accountability! Might as well be the age of Aquarius!

  92. the real konastephen says:

    the guy on here posting as “konastephen” is an interloper who uses that moniker despite the fact that I am the only and original konastephen and I loathe his pseudo-Barthian quasi-universalism, These neo-antinomian sentiments he expresses (my conclusions from a quick perusal) are a disgrace to the memory of Stephen. Also, he is not the author of the many and sundry remarks made in political forums. I am. Were I to comment on Pelagianism and such I would have quite another point of view. Please do not hold this faker’s misguidedness against me should you meet me in another comment stream.

    Hey, Bizarro Konastephen. E-mail me at konastephen at gmail dot com so we can straighten this out. It annoys me that people might think I think the things you think.

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